Wednesday, June 27, 2012

But I Was Only 5

2012 has been kicking my ass.  And yet, I feel stronger now.  At least I feel strong when I'm not actually feeling hopeless.    

I started off 2012 just diving right in to some of the most intense social situations I've ever had.  I wanted to push myself to get out there, overcome my shyness, meet people, and make new friends, get connected to others and be part of something.    

The first situation was by choice.  But the second one was not.  The third one was. The fourth was not.  And so on and so forth.  Back and forth it went and continues on that way.  Each event, situation, trial, confrontation, mistake, was/is pushing me through, in what appears in my dreams as, mountains of rushing water, a metaphor for my emotions.    Sometimes I come out of it with a new grounded sense of who I am, but other times I'm left wondering what in the fuck is left of me.  What have I learned?  What am I getting out of this?  I'm still working on it.  I'm still trying to sort it out. 

But here is what hit me lately:

A new found awareness of what it feels like when I leave authenticity.   I've started to notice the twinges of emotion, pangs of anxiety, eagerness to please while concealing my resentment.  All of these signal to me that I've stepped out of authenticity.  Awareness of where I stop loving the people around me, stop loving what is happening around me, and I start to judge the situation not as it actually is but as my suffering ego imagines it to be.  It's paranoid, hurt, afraid, and it tells me stories about what it thinks is going on.  Stories that have nothing to do with reality but I'm lost in my emotions, I'm not acknowledging them for what they are, and I'm feeding them these stories.  I don't know why, but it keeps the pain alive.   Leaving authenticity is something I do more often that staying in authenticity.

It's pretty fucked up. 

I've been jumping into things too fast, too eager, too afraid that if I don't do it right now, I may never get to do it ever.  I'm not realizing that I have not fully accepted myself so I still put on a mask, I still try too hard to play a role that I think is expected of me.  And I fail.  I fuck it up.  My sense of confidence, that confidence that I think others are looking for, is not real.  I conjured it up and pretended to be something I'm not, something that I know I can be but I'm not ready to be.  I'm not ready because I'm not doing it from my own personal center and awareness.  I'm doing it as a mirror of how I see it in others.  

This time it put me in a situation where I hurt someone.  I unintentionally inflicted serious physical injury.  And I've destroyed, permanently, a trust that I had just started to earn.  The ripple of that is not only losing his trust, but the trust of an entire social circle because of how he will warn others; spread the word that I am a bad person.

What was I thinking?  I don't know.  I wanted to be perfect.  I wanted to be what that other people expected of me.  I only wanted to please. 

Later that night, as I was making the long drive home from my disastrous weekend, I was talking to my mom about what had happened.   I was already feeling out of place from things going on all month but this weekend pushed me over the edge.  My body, thoughts, emotions, were all exploding.  I was feeling fear, frustration, anger, worthlessness, rejection, guilt, shame, regret.  I had hurt someone.  Seriously hurt them.  

I was reminded of an indecent that happened when I was 5 years old of a little boy, struggling, one step at a time, heaving a heavy stroller carrying the crying baby of my baby sister up onto the front porch, trying desperately to get her in the house.  She was crying; I was trying to comfort her. I had no idea what to do but get her in the house so that mom could make it right.   But I was afraid that I would be punished for making her cry; after all it was my fault that she was crying. 

I was spraying the lawn with the water hose, playing, pretending to be the little Rainbird sprinkler, as I smacked at the water stream with a plastic spatula. And she, for whatever reason I don't know, was alone with me, sitting out in the sun.  Was I supposed to be watching her?  I feel like I was.     But why would a 5 year old be responsible for a tiny baby just barely a few months old?  I don't remember but I do felt like I had been given the responsibility to tend just because we were alone together.  I don't recall being told to do it though, but it was common for my dad to tell me to do such things.   So, there I was, just hoping nothing happened and that mom or dad would come and get her soon before she started crying.   But then I slipped, I turned too far and a blast of cold water hit her face, startling her and she screamed. 

I was ashamed, I had accidently hurt her, I got her wet, and now I was going to get yelled at, punished, whipped with the belt or whatever, I don't know.   She needed comfort, she needed to be held, and she needed to stop crying so that I wouldn't be blamed for causing it.   But I was too small to pick her up.  And I didn't know where mom or dad where.  I didn't call for mom because I knew she couldn't hear me.  If she hadn't come by now from my sister screaming, she couldn't hear; she had no idea anything had happened. 

I'm sure mom was in the house somewhere but I didn't dare leave her alone. If anything were to happen to her because I left her alone, I would surely be punished.   So I did the only thing that made sense to me at the time, get her in the house so that mom could hear. 

The stroller was heavy, it was awkward, and the handles were as high as my shoulders.  The best I could do was tilt it back and drag it backwards, heaving the back wheels one step at a time up the concrete stairway, one, two, three, steps, then pausing to rest for a moment and regain my grip.  Each step hit her with a profound jerk and bump, each one seemed to make her cry worse.  Four, five, six, I was at the top.  Tilted the stroller back on all fours and then turned my attention to opening the door.   Once I managed to get the door open I turned just in time to notice the stroller had rolled toward the stairs, out of my reach and the front wheels had already hit the first step. 

I was literally frozen as I watched the stroller tumble down the stairs. Each jostle of the wheels as they dropping down onto each step sent shards of adrenaline through me and amplified the sound of terror I was hearing in her crying. When the front wheels hit the bottom the stroller flipped forward, head over heels, landing upside down, smashing my sister's face into the concrete. 

I no longer heard any crying, it had all gone silent. 

I rushed down the stairs; I was shaking, and muttering to myself, "Oh my god!  Oh my god!"  I was so weak; I was trembling; I could barely turn the stroller on to its side.  "Oh my god!" I kept muttering trying to unfasten the seat belt.  But I was shaking too much; I could barely grasp the buckles.   Her face was contorted as if she was trying to cry but couldn't catch her breath, she just shook, trembled and twitched.  There was a bit of rocky dirt on her chin and forehead and blood was starting to drip from the edges of her mouth.  "Oh my god!  Oh my god!"

When she finally caught her breath, in what seemed like a lifetime, she let out the most disturbing cry I had ever heard and don't want to ever hear in my lifetime again, a frantic screaming cry of terror, panic, pain, trauma. 

This was bad, this was serious, this was my fault, she was hurt, really hurt bad and I couldn't do anything, I didn't know what to do, and I had caused this. 

It was shortly after this when mom finally heard the screaming and came rushing outside to see what was going on, all the while screaming at me in panic, and demanding answers.  "What's going on?!  What happened?!  Why is she bleeding?!   What in the hell were you doing?!  What have you done?!  Get away! Don't touch her!"  I don't remember what I said or if I was even able to say anything.

Mom took her in the house, at which point the details of my memory have faded to images of her trying to get my sister to suck on popsicles or bottles but she couldn't do it.  Images of streaks of blood on anything her mouth had touched, the unending crying that seemed to last for days, and then I have no more memory. 

But this memory of my baby sister has been with me, haunting me my whole life, playing over in my mind from time to time, but only as a bad dream, disconnected and disassociated from it.  But now, I was suddenly reliving it all over again while driving home that night. 

I had to stop the car, before I passed out and crashed.  I was convulsing with intense wailing, soaking my clothing in sweat, releasing emotion it seemed from every pour of my body.  Even now, as I retell this story here, even rereading it as I proof read, I crumble in fits of sobbing.

I had found out a few years ago that I had actually broken her jaw.  I had broken the jaw of a baby only a few months old.  She is now in her mid 30's and has had to cope with problems as a result of that her entire life. 

And now, out of some twisted turn of events, I'm still paying for my mistake.  And continue to do so as I keep replaying my history.  Doing it all over again; hurting people while trying to play a role that I am not ready to play.  Just like when I was 5 years old.   But then, I was also forced into that role.  It's no wonder I feel such intense anxiety when I'm forced into roles, jobs, obligations, commitments, that I'm not willing to do or I'm not ready for.

That is why I hated being in the Mormon church so much.  It was an obligation, a commitment, a role, that I couldn't fill.  No matter what I did, I was never good enough.  But I did it anyway to keep the piece.  To protect myself from the anger and wrath of those who had authority and control over me.    But I'm not there anymore, and yet, I have been continuing to force myself into a roles I'm not ready for today.  Why?  To please others in hopes of earning their respect? 
Respect that I can't ever earn?  Am I doing it to try to redeem myself for the harm I've caused?   That seems ridiculous, as I'll just keep causing more harm.   I don't know. 


  1. You know a lot of people hurt others unintentionally, and they live with that the best they can. Those that are able to thrive are the people that put the atonement to use and forgive themselves. Guilt is meant to get out attention not to live within us forever. I've been where you are and through the help of a wonderful therapist I began learning how to forgive myself. You need to learn this skill..not easy but necessary to move on.

    As for your sister...who the hell leaves a 5 year old to watch a baby? None of that is your fault or your responsibility. Are you carrying the guilt so you don't have to place the blame on your parents where it really belongs? You need to let the adults take responsibility...

  2. I love you. I'm crying and shaking as I read this.
    I agree with Anonymous - let the adults take responsibility. THEY had the babies. THEY were the ones responsible for their care. EVERYTHING that happened to you and to them was their responsibility. (They did the best they could, I'm sure, but that doesn't take away their responsibility to protect their children. And not just the baby, but the five year old YOU too.)

  3. I am so, so very sorry that this happened. How awful, that as such a young child you were forced into a care-giver role that you simply were not old enough to handle. I had a similar childhood - youngest of seven, mother was forced to go back to school after I was born. Just too much for one family to handle and a whole lot of heart-break as a result. I have a lot of anger and anxiety surrounding stuff that happened when I was very little.

    I really hope that it gets better for you. Getting out of the fucked-up mindset of the Mormon Church, what with their twisted-up ideals of "perfection" and obligations, is a life-long process.

  4. I agree with Anonymous, who the hell leaves a five year old in charge of a baby? Therein lies the fault, not yours.

  5. I'm not going to comment on the story as I am very much familiar with it. Except for the jaw problems that she has...? I was unaware. Anyways...You mentioned earlier on how you aren't always authentic and it's "fucked up" (forgive me for not being specific, I'm summarizing), my own personal belief is that it's not about being authentic vs. inauthentic, that's still such a black and white construct. We are who we are. We're expressing all sides of ourselves, the light and the dark, in hopes of integrating ourselves into a bigger whole. Sometimes we have to step outside of ourselves and try something on to understand ourselves better and to learn. We are constantly changing and growing, nobody is 100% authentic all the time, whatever that means, but they are 100% them. My authentic self of 15 years ago is not the same as the authentic self of me today, as far as how my personality chooses to express itself and how I perceive things. I feel true inauthenticity comes from judgement, of self and others. So when you say I was being inauthentic and it's fucked up, I think what's fucked up is not your perceived inauthenticity, which was simply an experience - which is what life is about, even when the experiences are painful, they always bring us back to ourselves if we allow it, I think the thing that's inauthentic is your judgement about it. The rest is just expression. And I'm sorry that a part of you that needed to be heard expressed itself in a way that hurt others. That's definitely a hard thing to deal with. But instead of judging that part of you, embrace it and bring it into you in a healthy way so it can find healthy expression. I know you don't believe in God or a higher whatever... (at least that's the last thing you said to me, so I'm assuming it's still true) but my belief is that we're not here to be perfect, we're here to experience. Only you can make every experience worthwhile by forgiving and growing and letting go and embracing the good with the bad and loving yourself and others. Which is what I believe you are doing anyhow. Love you.

    1. That's basically what mom was trying to explain to me too.