Tag Archives: relationships

Thoughts from a Dark Valley: Lenience as Trauma Response.

In these quiet, internet-free days, I continue to discover things about my past and myself that I have been avoiding.

I have determined that my desire to be free of jealousy or possessiveness, both on the giving and receiving ends, is as much a trauma response as hyper-independence is.

I have always wondered what makes some people deeply jealous and possessive. Some men will say they are protecting their partner from all the bad men out there. It seems they are protecting what they see as a possession that can be taken because they fear they aren’t good/strong enough to keep it. I don’t know how most women come by their jealousy, but I suspect it isn’t terribly different reasoning regarding the rationale vs. the truth.

To be fair, in the early years, I had my own jealous fits. In time, however, I became secure in the love of my spouse. I got angry at hypocrisy; when expectations, like no lunches in groups including the opposite sex or no drinks after work, only applied to one of us, but I never feared he would cheat on me.

Obviously, there are experiences that engender this insecurity other than just personal feelings of inferiority. Surely, insecurity is often a trauma response. I’ve examined again and again where my own insecurities come from and I don’t wish to delve into those events from youth and first marriage in this entry. Suffice it to say, I do understand insecurities and still have my own.

Nonetheless, when I look back over the decades and see just how much damage all this “protection” has done to my self esteem, my ability to function in social settings, and my trust in men, I wish I had been more aware of the real dangers of jealousy. More accurately, I wish I’d listened when the experts said, “jealousy is a toxic trait.”

That toxicity isn’t as simple as causing strife in a relationship or even the painful destruction of a relationship. It can be, when it does the kind of emotional damage it did to me over decades, real trauma in the form of complex-PTSD. *

I understand that trauma and c-PTSD more each day relative to hyper-independence and lenience. My desire to be free of any incumbrance of jealousy or possessiveness in a future relationship, to go so far as to tell a love interest , “hey, do whatever you want, just use protection,” and mean it, is also a trauma response. It is not out of some sort of virtue or feigned equanimity that I would tell a man, “I won’t get jealous or possessive. I won’t demand utter fidelity in a relationship.”** It is because deeply ingrained insecurity was used on me in so many painful and unnecessary ways (deliberately or otherwise) to drive me into a cave of isolation through self-hatred and fear.

I will NEVER allow anyone to do that to me again nor will I be the partner doing that to anyone else.

It’s a sort of partners’ version of the abused child who, upon growing up and having their own children, becomes excessively lenient with their own children.

Likely as not, it spells disaster for me and future relationships. It already interfered with one. Many American men expect to be able to do whatever they please, (“men are programmed to have as many partners as possible” goes the story) but their women damn well better be pure as the driven snow. If I tell a potential partner that he can do as he pleases, he will likely hear, as one man said to me, that I want to “sleep with five hundred men.”

I have no such desire. I would like the sometime partnership of one loving and decent man who doesn’t seek to own me.

Otherwise, I will never allow a man to dictate my behavior again, either through insecurity or insults like the above, ridiculous “500 men” comment.

This is me, for now. Perhaps in time, I will balance the trauma response with something more socially acceptable, but for now, the barest hint of jealousy, and it’s concomitant behaviors, dominance and withdrawal of respect, will send me running.

*This is not a self-diagnosis. Qualified mental health care personnel have made this determination and always should be consulted.

**To be clear, I respect and admire fidelity and I would expect it in myself if in a long-term relationship. I simply refuse to demand it or have it demanded of me.

Ether Or: Dark to Light Ruminating

Once more in electronic darkness and I am thinking of capricious time. How quickly the last six months have passed and how little I have accomplished. How slowly these seven days to come will pass as I contend with a silent ether and my loud and persistent demons.

The drive into this valley (oh, had I known, I would never have come here) was frustrating and hard on Blanche, Betty, me, and Sam. Signal loss resulting in wrong turns. Cars behind me too impatient to allow me to get a map and sort out my route. Dead ends with difficult turn-arounds and deep mud. (Yay for 4-wheel drive!) I will escape into town mid-week to get my bearings, but I dread it. The road is treacherous even with a small truck.

And now I know why the spaces were readily available on such short notice. There is only one other trailer here plus the host. My assigned site was flooded, so the host said I could have one of several others.

I’m also out of porter. Probably, given my mood, that’s a good thing.

On my drive here, through Appalachian towns and highway construction, I was optimistic. The hills seemed manageable, then I turned toward this place about twenty miles out and my heart sank. Yes, another deep river valley, threatening rock falls on either side of the road, and shadows, shadows, shadows.

The gate attendant, a young mother, and her waif-like daughters are light — bright in their shining honey manes. The littles are energy and cheer as they pedal their bikes in circles and esses.

I think again of time.

Of a tiny, thin, tow-headed, green-eyed girl, all legs and arms and sunshine, grown now to honey-haired beauty; those eyes like a wild cat’s, large, intense, and mesmerizing. She is a mother herself now, and it is difficult at times for me not to cling to the little girl I remember. I still have dreams of her — small, vulnerable, and sometimes challenging, but always full of love. She is still bright, as if she carries her own light source in her chest. I’ve known few people like her in this world: my mother, my sister-in-law, a friend I lost in the divorce.

Sunshine.

And I think of how she and these little ones on their bikes, thus far, have the luxury of time while other children have not.

How time and cruelty take parents, lovers, friends, and children from us.

I am certain, most days, that I have time. That I will find my way before the geographical journey is done and “stay put” somewhere that makes me feel I am at home. That I will find my way on the emotional journey and stay put in a life that makes me feel whole again.

Other days, I wonder if I will simply wander until I can’t anymore.

Damn these mountains and the pits of despair they inflict on me.

Damn my memory.

Damn time.

Intermission

Last night, as I lay in bed, having driven a single-car road into these shadows, I had an intense, brief pain in my head. I’ve had them for years and am told they are akin to migraine or cluster headache but likely brought on by stress.

For a moment I considered it could be something more ominous and the sudden image of a quick and unexpected death here actually frightened me.

I discounted sheer self-preservation. I thought of people I love and miss so much when I am disconnected. I thought of how much those connections mean to me, even those that are merely electronic. What struck me, selfishly enough, was not how they will feel if I pass now (I can always minimize that in my depression), but how I will miss out on time with them. How I will miss out on a chance to get where I truly want to be.

It’s easy for me to think I am too old to ever be anywhere or anything, to feel productive and safe in a country of such division, to ever have a loving relationship again, etc.

I’ve been conditioned for forty years and two husbands to believe I am unlovable. One told me no one would ever love me like he did. (Well, thank the Universe for that!) The other, through implication not words, told me no one would ever really love me at all. I was just an object to “all men except him.” The Wrong Man, though caring and gentle and a good listener, rarely spoke of the non-corporeal things about me that he liked, and certainly never claimed love for me.

Going down that line of reasoning is what gets me into the wrong headspace. It makes it too easy to believe there are no men out there that would find me a good match. I’ve developed an almost pathological hatred for the institution of marriage (for me) and the smallest whiff of possessiveness or jealousy. That doesn’t fit well with my demographic (Xoomer/Boomer). I am quickly losing my appeal to the Xillenials and that’s probably for the best. 😄

So when night fell and I was alone and had gotten through my nightly cry, and had the realization that my life was, in fact, finite without my intervention, I “came to” for a moment.

In an odd way, it was a relief to be scared of my own mortality again. As anxious as those moments were, they were useful. I still feel like little more than an object. I still have little hope for anything resembling partnership. I’m still dismayed by American exceptionalism. However, I do want to see my loved ones again. I do want to try to make something of these last, potential years.

I don’t know what the next seven days will bring. Weather permitting, I’ll escape into a satellite-lit land for a small period of time to make further reservations and check on the signal at the upcoming reservations. To reach out and let my loved ones know I’m safe.

I may have to alter my path. I have let import things slide as I puttered through Appalachia, certain life was of little value.

It’s time to come out of the shadows.

Beauty in the shadow & light: Bigleaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla)

Love & the Road: the Stuff of Nightmares?

I don’t dream with the frequency that I did before the divorce. Now and then I still have deeply symbolic nightmares.

A bit of set up: I met a nice gentleman on my journey who was kind, attractive, and intelligent. We had several fun conversations and enjoyed the same music from the same era though he was several years younger than I. We both love poetry and reading and shared our histories readily. He treated me to the tour of the Caverns of Sonora, dinner, and several starlit strolls with Sammy in the frigid winter air. All in all, despite age and origin differences, we had many things in common.

Obviously, I couldn’t let THAT go on.

Then, the second night I had one of those “this symbolism is so obvious it’s stupid” nightmares.

I dreamed I was a very attractive, youngish, homeless woman who had been killed in a rage by her childhood sweetheart. I haunted the place of my death but people who saw me only saw a lonely, waifish young woman. I would talk to them, entertain their advances only so far, then abruptly disappear.

On one such occasion a man took too much liking to me and got too amorous. While he meant no harm, he was playing at being aggressive because he thought it was sexy. My “character” began to panic and started warning him, “Stop! I will hurt you!” repeating this over and over, louder and louder. I began punching, biting, scratching, screaming until he let go with a hurt and shocked expression. My now non-corporeal self was flung backwards as it had been in my death and, as in my death, began bleeding profusely from a huge gash in my torso. Invisible hands dragged me away slowly as had my former love when he tried to conceal his crime. The poor man who simply wanted to fool around with a pretty girl, stared on in terror as an unseen force dragged me away leaving a thick trail of bright red blood on the concrete.

I awoke.

Such dreams take me several minutes from which to recover and gather my thoughts.

When, after about fifteen minutes, I was awake, clear, and had processed the dream, the symbolism slapped me hard.

I am in no way like that girl on the surface: I am “a woman of a certain age”, a little “fluffy”, and only passably attractive. Yet, I do somehow get attention from men. I am alone in this world now which is in itself something that attracts people.

The more important aspects of the dream are these:

I have referred to, in writing, my love relationships as “bleeding out” in a gradual process for thirty nine years. From first love to first marriage to second marriage to first-love-after-divorce I have experienced my vision of love and the men who present it to me as a “death by a thousand cuts.”

While I am not at all bitter at this point (I do not hate men!), I am entirely untrusting. I may feel completely comfortable with the person, but never comfortable with their hearts or my ability to navigate them.

A boy told me he loved me and slept with my best friend.

A man told me he couldn’t live without me while sleeping with exotic dancers and fretting he might get HIV (it was the 80s).

A man told me I was the love of his life and he was still in love with me yet held the divorce door open for me because exploring/fixing why we were constantly arguing was just too scary for him.

Lastly, a man told me I was his ideal woman but the timing was wrong.

So when a man tells me, “I think you’re amazing and would love to get to know you,” all my alarms go off.

Naturally, I screamed, “I will hurt you!” in some quiet, metaphorical way, and let the loves of my past drag my bloody corpse away from my new friend.

I have said many times recently and in many ways that I foresee a life alone from this point on. There are numerous reasons, not least of which are the houseless life I have chosen, my age, a heart still tied up in the last man, and a strong desire to be utterly independent. Ultimately however, being alone looks to come from my experiences and the doubt they have foisted on me.

To my new friend I met
on the RV-life trail
I’m sorry for the bloody corpse.

Someday these cuts may heal.

And yes, J, you were right. I miss your easy laugh and conversation. I miss our common ground, of all sorts. Wish I’d gotten that playlist, too.