Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I Am Not Broken.

I'm not even sure where to start this blog. So much is going on...and yet not going on...I can't even think straight at the moment. I seem to be in the midst of learning some seriously heavy and strange life lessons and while on paper I know it will all lead to my highest good, it is difficult to allow the moment to just flow. Because you see, I'm a control freak. And I'm extremely competitive with myself. And I was raised in an environment of fear, guilt and self-loathing. I work hard to try and stop myself from boarding the Crazy Train these days when things aren't going the way I think they should (or are simply going in a direction I can't clearly make out as yet), and I am indeed getting better. I think of myself ten years ago...hell, even five years ago...and I'm pretty impressed with how much better I deal with life's little turds than I used to. Like the proverbial onion, you peel back each layer. At least that's how I prefer it. I'm not a diver, I'm a toe-dipper. And I'm okay with that. Cuz for a long time I just sat in the bleachers and watched.

Regardless of the progress I have made reading various happy-happy books, looking up inspirational quotes, listening to enlightening CDs by the likes of the good doctors Wayne Dyer and Michael Beckwith, and enjoying Rev. James Mellon's talks online...there is always my one albatross I cannot get off my neck. It is not a cause, but a manifestation of the root cause. And while I chip away, away, away at my bad habits of verbally beating myself to smithereens and begin to talk lovingly and respectfully to myself - and to others - I just. cannot. stop.................................................

Eating. There was never an a-ha moment that indicated to me what the core of this issue was, even though my mom and bio-dad had divorced before I was even two and he was a total substance-abusing deadbeat, which clearly leads to abandonment issues. Knowing this to be a common cause of food issues in women, it wasn't enough to just know it to make myself stop. And being a person whose favorite classes in school other than music were psychology related, I've read EVERYTHING I can get my hands on about this subject. And of course also worshiped at the church of Oprah for 25 years trying to figure it out as well. I even went to a healer who claims to have The Stigmata (I saw the scars in her hands while she held them over my face, vividly -- is it real or is it Memorex? You decide.) and to a wacky weekend seminar where they deprived us of sleep and food till we were all literally in tears (even the men) and coddling our pathetic little inner children. I actually thought that worked for a hot minute...but about a week later it was same ole same ole.

I may however, have had a breakthrough at long last...two interesting revelations. I began reading a book a few days ago called "Women, Food and God" by Geneen Roth. Yes, I heard about it on the Oprah show. Ms. Roth's philosophy is, "All that you believe about love, change, joy and possibility is revealed in how, when and what you eat. The world is on your plate." Uh...what? How I feel about life is causing me to abuse my relationship with food? And here I've been thinking this whole time that my relationship with food is what causes me to hate my life! I'm intrigued to find out more. This is Revelation Number One, the lesser of the two.

Revelation Number Two got me like a 2x4 in the noggin. In the forward of the book, Ms. Roth is describing a retreat she hosts twice a year to help women with food addiction. A rule is that when it's time to eat, everyone fills their plates with whatever, sits down and has to wait to eat till everyone else has filled her plate and has sat down. This causes lots and lots of strife. Eighty food-addicted women with plates of food in their faces and not allowed to eat. Just wave a beer under an alcoholic's nose, for the love of Pete. This discomfort brings forth confessions and excuses, many of which I've read in a million other places in my search to bury this demon within..."I was abused...I can't live up to society's standards...I'm a child of divorce...I grew up in the Witness Protection Program and I don't know who I really am"...blah blah blah. But one woman said something that literally busted open the floodgates for me, because I realized it was MY story but never really knew it.

Directly from the book (no infringement intended, Ms. Roth!): 

A few minutes later, Nell, a student at the retreats for seven years, raises her hand. "I am not hungry anymore, but I suddenly realized that I am afraid to push the food away."

"Why?" I (Geneen) ask.

"Because..."--and she starts to cry--"...because I realize I am not broken...and that you will be angry at me if you know."

"Why would I be angry at you?" I ask.

"Because you'd see who I really am and you wouldn't like it."

"What would I see?"

"Vitality. A lot of energy. Determination. Strength."

"Wow," I say. "And what wouldn't I like about that?"

"I wouldn't need you then. And you would be threatened by that."

"Who are you taking me to be? Anyone you know who was threatened by how gorgeous you are?"

Nell starts to laugh. "Hi, Mom," she says.

The room erupts in a wave of laughter.

"She was so depressed," Nell says. "And if I was just myself, that was too much for her. I needed to shut down the bigness--I needed to be as broken as she was--otherwise she'd reject me and that was unacceptable."

Now, my mother was and is beautiful. And I know I wasn't thrown out the ugly tree myself, so it's not about that. But I was a very dramatic, vivacious, colorful, expressive, creative, gifted child...and my mother could NOT handle my "bigness." She could NOT handle my innate, burning desire to make the whole world my stage. And even while on one hand she did make sure I got all the musical training I wanted in the form of lessons, etc., she did everything she possibly could to snuff out my inner light. Suddenly realizing Revelation Number Two, my mind flooded with examples...

I started dance lessons when I was 5. It was interfering with my Saturday morning cartoons, so I told mom I wanted to quit. Her reply, "That's ok honey, you didn't really have it anyway." And she let me quit and I never took another dance class in my life, because from then on I believed I couldn't dance. And I still do.

Around the same age, I was apparently fond of standing in front of the mirrors over the produce aisles in the grocery store and reenacting every commercial I'd ever seen on the point that my mother had a hard time getting me to stop and she'd have to drag me away in protest. One day I was so out of hand that I brought her to tears and she picked me up and left the store, abandoning a full cart of groceries. Now, while this is actually a pretty funny story, it stings to know that I had embarrassed my mother so greatly just by being who I was.

As a teenager, after the fam "got Jesus," my mother decided for me when I was "spiritually right enough with the Lord" to sing a solo on any particular Sunday in church. And she used it as a tool of discipline, too. "Do as I say or I'll call Pastor and tell him you can't sing this Sunday." To this day, when I have a voice student who is quitting their voice lessons because their parents are using them as a form of discipline, I get infuriated.

Mom yelling down the stairs into the basement-made-into-a-rec room as I practiced diligently singing the soprano melodies from the hymn book: "Darci, you're an alto, NOT a soprano, just accept it and quit that caterwauling! I can't take it!" A few years later when I started taking voice lessons and discovered I was indeed a soprano after all (as my dream was to be the next Sandi Patty), when I told mom she sneered, "No you're not. That woman must not know what she's talking about. What are we paying her for?" (I will tell you this, if not for Liz-formerly-Bolibaugh-now-Belle giving me permission to sing with the voice I was born with instead of dumbing-it-down so as not to appear as if I was 16-going-on-30--which would mortify my mother--I'm not sure what I'd be doing now. Probably making money. But bored out of my ever-loving mind.)

Whenever we argued, as mothers and daughters do, she never once went without saying, "Oh STOP being so dramatic! You're not on stage, spare me the drama."

Star Search was a big deal when I was in high school and they were having auditions in Albany, the nearest major city to my tiny little town of Johnstown, about 45 minutes northwest (and I mean a real 45 minute drive, not an L.A. 45 minute drive, which would actually be 7 minutes without traffic). My voice teacher said I MUST audition. I told mom. Mom said no, because she simply wasn't willing to drive that far (this despite the fact that she was as rabid a fan of the great Sam Harris as I was). When I told Liz, she was livid and immediately got on the phone and chewed her out. "Darci is GIFTED! She NEEDS to do this! What is your problem?!" Mom's response, "She can do whatever she likes when she's graduated high school and no longer living in my house." Now, considering what happens to child stars nowadays, Mom's decision could be argued as very sensible. But I was a senior in high school then and the "I'm not driving that far" excuse was not acceptable.

The worst though...when I moved to college in Nashville, TN...the whole family made the drive down with me (we had family friends living there they could visit and I'm not entirely sure that if we didn't that I wouldn't have been unceremoniously stuck on a plane and sent off alone). As they left to go back home, Mom hugged me ferociously and tried not to cry. But when she pulled away she said, "You can do this, Darci Christine. You're tough. You can do this." And then in the same breath, "But maybe try not to be yourself so much at first, because these girls are genteel southern ladies and you might scare them off before they get to know you." (Little does she know that very often "Southern Hospitality" is nothing more than wearing a big fake smile while they're stabbing you in the back.)

These instances felt brutal back then. But realizing where it came from gutted me even more the other day. I was born a fearless, happy child, as we all are. But by the time I was born Mom had made an extreme mess of her life, marrying the wrong alcoholic, drug-addict guy, never had any dreams of her own, and later got remarried to a very kind man that she wasn't truly in love with to get herself and her two children (at the time) off of welfare. I represented vitality, life, strength, hopes and dreams and had inherited my no-good bio-dad's musical gifts on top of it (bass player). Mom just couldn't take my "bigness"...she couldn't take looking at the reminder of her own mistakes every single day and the possibility that I might accomplish great things in my life when she never did. My mother was broken. I was NOT broken. And so she, subconsciously for sure, set out to break me. And I began to turn to food to deal with my mother's brokenness. Because I could be as dramatic and full of life and music as I wanted to with food because it couldn't and wouldn't reject me or belittle me for being me.

Now, after reading all this you are probably thinking my mother is a class A evil witch hag. That's actually not true. She can be very loving, fiercely protective, tough as nails, adorable as hell and absolutely melts into goo when there's a baby around. She's smarter than she's ever given herself credit for and she never sloughs off a responsibility for anything. She's also the only person I've ever met who LOVES to gamble and somehow has  never lost her shirt. She is the Queen of Moderation. And she's never once pressured any of us kids to hurry up and get married and make her a grandmother. I love my mother so very much and the thought of anything happening to her makes me sick to my stomach. 

Alas, like so many of us, her darkness has overcome her. She's allowed her past to be her present and her truth, and lets regret be the god she truly worships, as opposed to the God she claims saved her when I was seven. As a disciple of today's evangelical fundamental uber-conservative "Christ" (the man-made one, not the Living Source of Love I now believe in), she's more worried about the states of others' souls than her own. Her job is to be miserable. It's not a good day if you haven't wept, rent your clothing, climbed onto a pile of ashes and gnashed your teeth! She simply doesn't know that she doesn't have to feel this way. She just doesn't know...and at 61, she probably has no desire to. I cannot judge that or be angry at it, because a) I know that she is genuinely concerned with the state of the world in the deepest parts of her being and b) I was there once, too. 

But I don't want that for myself. I cannot stand myself miserable. Others can't stand me miserable. Revelation Number Two is reminding me, though I've heard and read it a million times, that there's nothing wrong with me. I was created in the image of The Maker and therefore perfect from day one. Period. I do not have to take on my mother's pain. Or my bio-dad's. Or friends' or former boyfriends' or my siblings' or anyone else's. It's not my responsibility and I have to stop worrying myself to death about it with every bite I shovel into my mouth. Furthermore, I do not get the luxury of blaming anyone else for who I've become or not become, because everything that has happened to me, was said to me or done to me in the course of my life are just that...happenings. Big deal. They happened. They do not define me. Their effects are not irreversible. Suck it up and move on. It's never too late to start over and it's never too late to remember that I was not born broken in the first place. I was NEVER broken. 


Contentment of heart to all.

Next day edit: This is becoming a song...stay tuned...