First off, I'll say this; I want to love myself, I really do. I also want you to love me, I really do. I admit it!
I am in some ways, pretty good at loving myself, and in other ways, I suck. I have gotten better and better at telling people to give me space when I need it, to fuck off even. I have gotten better at not walking on eggshells when I can feel someone is not in a great space their self, and not taking it personally. I’m slowly getting better at really paying attention to what is going on in my own body and seeking help from others when something is off.
I still tend to want to do it on my own. I’d rather look into whatever trouble I am having and find a way to balance it naturally, myself. Sometimes this works, sometimes not so much. The trouble with that is that I have to first acknowledge that something is wrong and I don’t like to do that. I’d frankly rather ignore it and have fun, whether that be going shopping instead of doing my taxes or checking out on social media instead of booking that dentist or gynecologist appointment. I get instantly rewarded in those situations... Like Like Like! Where as self care can sometimes feel like an endurance test, all those distractions taste like cookies!
Too often feeling that something is off in my body, or in a behavior, brings up vast amounts of shame and failure. It’s disproportionate, really, I know that everyone gets sick, that bodies become unbalanced, through no fault of our own. I know that people need help to stay healthy at multiple levels, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I know that, all of it. But there can be a vast gulf between knowing and living.
Neglect and abuse have always been neighbors. They live in a duplex with a withered yard and on any given Sunday you may hear one side of the complex howling and thumping, but form the other side of the duplex, you don’t hear so much. On Monday morning, both doors open releasing slightly disheveled kids. They probably don’t talk much amongst themselves as they shuffle off to the bus, they may be less willing to meet the eyes of the driver or their classmates. One set of kids, one side of the house, is shrouded in secrecy. They are the secret keepers, the Silent Guardians of the family, the policy is don’t ask, don’t tell, although at it’s root, this the motto for both houses. One side of the duplex, abuse, bears terrible secrets, scars and nightmares that don’t go away in the light and yet somehow, get normalized.
On the other side of the house, the neglect side, the don’t ask, don’t tell policy, is rooted in something a little different. Where as terror is not necessarily at the foreground of their interactions, those who live in a house of neglect, simply don’t feel important. They don’t feel they matter and so their material manifestation is distorted. Perhaps the laundry needs to be done, the cupboards are less than well stocked or the fridges contents are beginning to look like science experiments. The parents can't seem to pull it together for themselves, let alone their kids. Perhaps the children, where not beaten, feel a bit beaten down, wary and weary, or even depressed. The message, not necessarily spoken, is clearly delivered, none the less, you don't matter.
I grew up in both sides of the duplex. There was fun, there was drama and there was fear. I learned who I needed to be in the varying environments and I created certain skill sets and behaviors to deal with wherever I was.
One mark of neglect seems to be the shuffling of blame, one parent blaming the other for their discomfort and lack of accountability and lack of ability for clear communication, was a common display in my family. Your dad hasn't paid child support, your mother is crazy. This was a conversation that I got stuck the middle of and I surfed between the flotsam and jetsam from both wrecks. I learned to stay on alert for drama and outbursts in those unpredictable waters.
My parents divorced when I was eight and shared custody over us three kids. We bounced back and forth between them, over about a sixty mile split, between Corwin Springs and Livingston, MT. Both of my parents were emotionally volatile people, the range of their emotional expression was unpredictable, and sometimes frightening. And they were both great at having fun.
And that is another mark of neglect, replacing real care with the search for fun and other distractions. Pizza and movies instead of hard conversations and homework. And later in life, beer and take out instead of cooking and cleaning. Drugs and sex over education and parenting, me, with my own child. Forever searching for fun and distractions, gets passed down, from parent to child to the next generation, just like abuse, the seeds are planted when one is young and if not weeded out those weeds take over and flourish. Self care gets replaced with distractions, addictions, more volatile relationships and pampering, and where it is nice to pamper oneself, it is not the same as self care. Self care can be uncomfortable, as I already stated. It requires us to be present in our body, listening and feeling to those signals, which will inevitably include pain. Real self care requires time and attention. Attention that because of the seeds of neglect, we may just not think we are worthy of. The message can be subtle, yet it roots in deeply, informing us of who we are and what to value.
Somehow not taking care of yourself just becomes ok. It’s not fun and it can be quite uncomfortable and expensive.
And that is why I, a Wounded Woman, raised in a house of neglect, with visits from violence, can be hard to love. I'm still learning to love myself and sometimes, what comes up, to be loved on, triggers the shit out of me!
That is why loving an abused or neglected woman will be one of the most difficult undertakings a person can embark on and also the most rewarding, especially for ourself! Often we learn to put on a good front, we learn to look good, dress nice and seem to have our shit together, but the longer you know one of us, the more you will see how carefully we have crafted that mask so no one can see what is going on inside of us, how little we often, actually think of ourselves.
This is part of our allure. We are often self effacing, we are more concerned about what is going on somewhere else with someone else and where at first we may be able to direct that attention solely at you, and you will bask in it, the facade will crumble and then we will want, no we will need you to take care of us, because we do not know how to truly care for ourself. In this way, that strong woman facade cracks. Through our distortion and pain, we want you to fill us. Somewhere deep inside, we know you can’t but we ask anyway and not very clearly, for we ourself, do not really know what we want and our signals are all scrambled. We just know that we hurt, we don't want to, and we have been promised relationship as a panacea for all of our problems.
We do know what we don’t want. We don’t want to go back. We don’t want to cross that derelict yard into that crumbling building and find ourself there, the hurt, neglected little girl that we were. We want to remember ourself as the one who could handle anything, the one who held it together, the mediator, the one who kept the others safe, not as the broken Orphan Child. Yet, that is who we are, to at least a certain degree.
So this is where you come in as our lover and this is where we often get abandoned yet again, when we ask you to do something for us that you cannot and you do not know how to tell us this or how to care for yourself in the face of our storm. If you are aware, you will gently redirect our grasping for your attention, back to us. If you are skilled in your love, you will kindly if firmly guide us back to that place we would rather not go. I you are brave, you will tenderly hold us while we make that Journey, even as you remind us that you cannot make it for us.
You will listen to our fears, our pain and not try to fix it. We don’t need fixing, we just need reminding that we are worthy and you can do this simply by sharing space with us, and by letting us share ourself with you, ALL OF US. Not just the glamour, not just the sexy minx, not just the mother, not just the Child, but all of us. All of those aspects that live simultaneously within us that are simply trying to be seen, to emerge. If you can hold us as we fall apart and come together, and fall apart, again and again and again…Loving us, guiding back to ourself back through the Wound and into our Center, we will become your Goddess, a true Force of Nature! We will love you back with all the fire in our soul, for to see a Wounded Woman as Whole and Worthy is a task for a Warrior and a battle that can only be won when the armor has been laid down, the weapons discarded and we stand before each other souls bared. That is the greatest Beauty to behold.
Ultimately our Truth is this, and for us only to claim, I AM WORTHY! You may point the way for us but only we can walk that road that inevitably leads us back to where we came form our Center, our Home. That sacred place where innocence is never truly lost, and where even the most broken may once again find themselves Whole.
Photos by Reinfried Marass story behind these photos at http://www.apapachogallery.com/wounded-woman/