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Hanging frames around shame, neglect, and more..

Monday, July 7, 2014

Shamelessly struggling

I am struggling to write, think, and live shamelessly. In my last therapy session we talked about writing what we hope to manifest. This frame, shameless, was not a declaration of what I am but what I hope to be. What a shame, then, that I am frightened of living shamelessly in a society that functions on the fuel of shame. If I had endless reserves of energy I think I could manage a little more shamelessness but as it is, going against the grain is exhausting.

One of my first thoughts when I observe my fear of being shameless is that shame exists to keep people from doing harm. However I know that shamelessness does not mean freedom to do harm. It does not mean abusive actions or abusive people get away with hurting others. It does mean that we all speak and share more freely. Help to sort each other out more compassionately. Perhaps we would learn that something else is more suited for people who do real harm than shame. I haven't speculated far on what could replace it but I suspect sorrow or perhaps the transformative desire to treat others better.

The conclusion I have come to is that shame has failed as a tool to guide moral action. We humans are tool makers. Shamelessness may not be an answer but a way to manufacture a better tool for sorting the complexity of moral ambiguity. Perhaps conversations will one day be an effective route to justice and inefficient courtrooms will antiquate with dust?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Justice is a question

Our sense of justice is that the appropriate punishment for an act of injustice should be that all aspects of life are slightly or severely hindered. In other words punishment is for the perpetrator to be controlled by others, to lose autonomy. If you tend to lose control and hurt someone within a particular dynamic and you find yourself within that dynamic regularly, how much control-as-punishment should be exerted over you entirely? If you find yourself in that dynamic only once, again, how much punishment do you deserve?

One time as a child around the age of 8 I found myself alone in the house with my twin brother. I thought it would be a good idea to grab some change, hop on my bike, and purchase some penny candy at the drugstore just down the road. My twin imagined the potential punishment if we were to get caught and declined to come with me. Still desiring some candy he handed over his change without hesitation. I biked to the drugstore without a hiccup in the operation. Tootsie rolls were my decided purchase and I bought as many as my pennies would allow. To get home I had to cross back over the street before heading home.

As I waited for the crosswalk light to change I watched terrified as my father pulled up in his vehicle and stopped at the red light. I met his intense, cool, emotionally suspended gaze - and pedaled home quickly. Not a rushed pace but a steady, resigned pace. I was able to get home before my father so I threw my bike down on the grass (I don't know what became of the candy) and ran up the stairs to my bedroom. My father soon entered the room with a similar steady, resigned pace to match my pedaling. For a moment I thought I detected a smile inch up the right side of his face. No. It was more of a pinched straight line. Without any words he whipped off his leather belt in routine fashion and began hitting me over and over the back side.

I don't care to go into more detail at this point. The terror that I felt then pervaded into every active and passive aspect of my life. My punishment for risking my safety by going out alone without a guardian was to be beaten by my guardian. It was a normal aspect of life to be healing from red welts on my back and backside. Taking this line of thought further, I was simultaneously and routinely punished in a different way. My punishment for being a small and impressionable little girl was to be raped and molested by a much older, stronger, and manipulative sibling.

What had I done to have my autonomy robbed from me? Why was justice being dealt so harshly to a 5 year old? A 6 year old? A 7 year old? An 8 year old? Why were all aspects of my life hindered so severely? As a child I wondered what I had done to deserve this life but looking back I know better. I deserved none of it. The tragedy is I have to wake up every single day and remind myself that I didn't deserve what I was dealt.

So what sort of justice should my father endure for his hands-on way of teaching me a lesson? What should my sexual abuser face for the injustice I endured at his hands. What kind of control should be exerted over them, robbing them of free will over their time and daily activity?

My sexual abuser has passed on. He is dead now. He died at 30. Is this justice?

My father lives in a big house, drinks alcohol in ample amounts, attends church daily. Is this justice?

Should something be done?

I spent a decade of my life attempting to rehabilitate my abusers by explaining how they hurt me, how I did not deserve that pain, how it did permanent damage to my psyche. I asked them to sit down and talk to me and to listen to me. See that's what I think justice should be within my personal circumstances. My abusers should have to pause their existence and devote their precious time to listen to me until they are changed by what they hear. This is not a type of justice you can force. My father has shown time and again that he will not show me justice. There is no hope of that from my sexual abuser now.

In the absence of justice I have offered myself space away from abuse and abusers. I speak up now when I feel my control is being taken in a way that brings me harm. It will always hurt that justice was never served - that I was not heard in a way that changed my abusers into safer and better people.

I can't focus for too long on their refusal or the impossibility to bring about justice. I have my own listening to do for those that I have hurt and bring harm to. So I move forward. Still, it is important that people know it will always hurt. Never receiving justice will always hurt.



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Shamelessly Normal

I can write when and how much I want. No one gives me permission. No one tempts my self esteem to drop because they disapprove of what I write, how I write, how well I write, or what I write about.

I do not write for improvement nor for aim of 'high art'. I do not share for profoundness or inspiration. I am not on this Earth to bolster my name or to impress another with bloated credentials. I write because it is cathartic and I share because I am human. When we are at our best, is when we humans share ourselves.

I identify as an average survivor, one who will never turn her pain into a success story. I am genuinely proud to make it through each day; writing, drinking coffee, having deep discussion with people, and achieving an excessive level of contemplation. I have no intent and feel no pressure to entertain or refine a product of my daily actions.

I sing for myself and do not find this selfish. I know I sing quite well and that is enough for me. I do not see it as a gift I have to share. I more often ask the question, "Should we not all sing?" The least anyone could do is take up routine humming. Or finger tapping.

I run to take my body back. It is ever out of reach, bodily autonomy. I run and kick soccer balls in a field hoping to feel powerfully connected to my body's capabilities but that was stolen from me. Still, I am content to chase after it each and every day. I chase my birth right, not a narrative that comforts those around me.

I am settled over my anxiety. It is my buzzing companion. Sometimes it is beyond my control, sometimes it feels like a massaging rhythm, at other times I am above it observing. No matter where I position myself, it is within reach, always making me aware it is vibrating.

My arms will always alert me that a flip was switched on my PTSD. Fire up and down, heat on the surface of my skin, combined with anxiety it makes for a hot, incessant tingling. The threat feels external but I know I have to go within first, hold a conference with my body's capacities if you will, and sort out if I am indeed experiencing a real physical threat. I have a complex and energy draining response to circumstances that most could brush off. This is okay.

This is my normal. Shamelessly.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Demanding or Helping? - a side thought

When we tell others to relax or calm down it is ironic that we are not leading by example. It is demanding and controlling to say, "Just relax." or "Calm down!" I suppose it isn't necessary to lead by example to justify making these as suggestions to someone who is clearly upset but it is an ineffective shortcut to the desired emotional state. I don't blame anyone for wanting to achieve calm or peace in their immediate environment. However, calm and peace cannot be achieved by force, coercion, manipulation, and the like. Validation and listening are likely the best options when compelled to utter, "Chill out already."

Then the next thought might be, "Well how do I validate or show that I'm listening?" Start with a genuine intention to understand the other person. When you have achieved this say, "I'm listening." Then find the will to be quiet and listen. Listening might take awhile. You may not find a moment that is appropriate to interject your own thoughts. That is okay. What a wonderful and giving thing to do - to give up some time and aural space to the one who is upset, hurt, troubled, and so on. 

If this strategy doesn't effectively lead to the calm and relaxation you were looking for ask for a third party to help. Ask the upset and hurt person to seek help in someone else. Express your own needs. Above all, negotiate through mutually respectful communication. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Picture Frames

In my usual style, I like to take tangents away from the grounding frames of this blog: shame and now shamelessness. It is fun for me to imagine at times what a literal frame for my lived experience would look like. Every now and then I will type "picture frame" into the Google search engine and browse the images looking for frames that call out to me.

Today I noticed that floral frames felt best suited to my sensory needs.  
                                       
Most days a vintage picture frame speaks to me loudest. (I'll examine why at a different time)

  
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There is something about the right frame that can make the content within more striking and beautiful, more contained, safer, untouchable. All of these things are appealing to me.

If you could frame yourself what visual and textural qualities would the frame express?

If you had to select from the frames below, which one would you choose?




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If I placed the frames above in a different visual order would you have selected a different favorite?

Now, what shape would you like your frame to take?

What do you think the shape says about the possibility of containing you within?




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How much would you alter the traditional rectangular or oval shape of the classic picture frame?

I used to struggle a great deal with constraints and rules. Now I have an appreciation for their utility, having a more discerning taste for when and when not to subscribe to rules. The abstract and literal idea of framing has helped me think more clearly about the tools we use to provide guidelines for ourselves and others. For me the frame is like a set of rules, it can stifle a work of art but it can also liberate.