Lost and not found

OK, so yesterday I was supposed to be talking about what might be missing from my life, and I said that I was missing. Well, that’s a pretty broad topic, especially if I keep eating Rice Krispies treats all day, but regardless…not sure if I really came to a graceful end of that topic. What’s missing from my life, did I ever have it or did I have it and lost it? Is it something I feel is necessary to get me to what I want, where I want to be?

I said that I feel like I am missing because I feel that so much of my life has been about obligations, doing what other people – society, even – expects me to do. I am not even sure society in general cares what I do, up to the point of breaking laws or something, but I will admit that it’s probably my belief in what society demands of me. There has always been a conflict in me about that…a strong tendency to do what is right, what is correct, what good people do. But there’s always been another part of me that says screw all that, I’m going to do what I want to do, or even more oddly, I’m going to do what bad people do. I always wanted to be a bad girl…always wanted to have those cool after-school special kinds of problems.

I wanted bad girl attention, felt like it would make me cool somehow, but…i was pretty cowardly. And sheltered. There were just some things I was too afraid to do, like run away. I thought about it, even planned it several times, but was so unsure that I could make it that I pulled back each time. I felt like I didn’t have any place to go, first of all, and second of all I was really too scared that I couldn’t survive living on the street. I was specifically petrified of being sexually assaulted when I contemplated the prospect of having to go to sleep outdoors, or in some partk or bus station, with no protection. I understood that I would be at the mercy of whoever happened by, and I was petrified of being raped or “messed with”.

At one point, I really wanted to be in the roller derby. I guess I was about 13 or 14, and roller derby came on television every Saturday afternoon. I was mesmerized b y it, because it was a place where strong, tough, take-no-shit women could be found. I knew all of the players, and was an official fan. I got magazines from them, and found out all kinds of personal details, family life, all kinds of stuff. I felt like they were my family. I researched how old you had to be in order to join a team…and the minimum age was 16. I started to keep a calendar of the time remaining until I was 16…when I could run away to California or Minnesota, where my favorite teams were located. I was ready. I was going to be one of …them. And nobody was going to stop me.

I had only one problem…kind of a big one, but I figured I could resolve it in the time I had left before I ran away. I didn’t know how to skate. It just wasn’t something I seemed to be able to learn, either – kids my age would have skate parties at local rinks, or the mall, and I went to a couple. I put on the skates, and careened shakily to the railing of the rink numerous times, where I clung for most of the time I was there. Sometimes, other people would say just go ahead, let go of the rail, you’ll see how to do it and you’ll be fine. After painting the floor with my face or the back of my head enough times, I gave up. Who wants to do that, anyway…it’s really stupid. So, I never learned to skate, and my aspirations to become a roller derby queen bit the dust. Not right away, but I kind of knew that dream wasn’t going anywhere.

The long and short of the roller derby story is…I felt trapped, and that experience is one of the earliest where I consciously felt that I couldn’t get what I wanted, anywhere, anyhow, anytime. I sank into myself a little, I think. I was really attached to my roller derby dream, but I could see that it just couldn’t be. So, I saw “San Francisco Bomber” with Raquel Welch several times, pinned up my fan pictures, and soon began to distance from all of it. I was still trapped, I still had no place to go, and I was saying goodbye to a goofy adolescent dream of escape. I was 14, I think, and I was already unhappily accepting the fact that getting what you wanted was not a given. I could see that whatever “it” was that enabled you to get what you want is something I didn’t have. And nobody could give it to me. Nobody.

I think a little part of me gave up at that point, gave up on life, gave up at least on happiness. This was going to be something I had to just get through, this life thing. Just get through it, no enjoy it or shape it or be happy about it. I knew that I wasn’t happy, but it never occurred to me that happiness was part of the deal. I didn’t think you had any choice about things like that, and what I saw of others’ circumstances seemed far and away better than what I had, by thousands of exponents. Everything seemed like hard work, everything seemed like effort. I was confused a lot of the time, confused about why something I said on Friday got no reaction, or may have seen as funny, or cute, but if I said the same thing on Sunday, I got smacked and berated for not knowing my place, for being sassy, for being stupid. *sigh* I just never knew with my mother, could never quite get wise to the pattern of who she’d be on any given day. Was Saturday and Sunday nice mommy, or was it Sunday and maybe Thursday? Seemed like it changed every week, actually, so I just rolled with it. It was all about compliance, with a set of rules that seemed to vary with the weather or some arbitrary condition. I can’t say it was never about doing what I wanted to do, but frequently what I wanted to do was chosen because it would grant me favor, or because I felt it was expected. Some of the things I wanted to do, liked doing, were looked down upon by my mother, like playing football with the neighbor kids, or eating sweets until they were expelled from just about every orifice that i had. She didn’t like that last one much at all. So, obligation, living up to other people’s expectations, that was how you played the game, how you got through your life. OK, got it. Or maybe it had me.

So, what was missing…was me in so many ways. Looking back on it, it seems as though I was already a bit numb, as an adolescent. After my grandmother died is when I most remember that feeling, that drudgery of doing the same thing every day, because that’s what you were told to do. That’s when I first remember feeling like “whatever” in response to just about everything. You father is going to leave. Whatever. The car is wrecked. Whatever. You didn’t do well on this test. Whatever. Please don’t interrupt me whil I’m ignoring everything…I need full concentration for that, otherwise I might feel something. Somewhere in there, I stopped being numb and began to be mad as hell. Enraged, acctually. And that rage didn’t dissipated until I was in my late 30s. It propelled me through a lot of things, but I threw out quite a lot of exhaust fumes.

In summary, then, I guess what was missing – what is still missing – is a sense of security, a sense of well-being on a level where I feel that I am in the right place, or at least that it’s not a fluke that I’m here. I am somewhat of a slow learner, and it takes me a couple of minutes sometimes to get in touch with the absolute unacceptability of a situation in which I find myself. I frequently see the abuse in hindsight, and in a way I suppose that’s not a bad thing. If I was triggered and cognizant in real time, in some situations I might not be responsible for my reaction. The down side to that, however, is that I feel like such an incredible fool when I realize what has happened. I sometimes wish I didn’t have a conscience so that I could repay an abuser or a user in kind. But, I have a conscience, or maybe it’s just that I prefer the passive aggressive reproach of denying their existence, ignoring them entirely, denying that I even see them. It doesn’t really work all that well anymore, but it’s kind of all I’ve got right now. If I engaged, on even a perfunctory level, it would probably not be pretty, and I’m really too old and spoiled to go to jail. It is what it is.

I do feel like I’m missing, because I don’t know exactly what I’ve lost. I know what I don’t have, only because I imagine it or see it in other people or read about it…but I don’t think I ever had it. It’s like there are dead zones in my spirit where there is simply…nothing. I don’t know if I know how to love anyone, only to be infatuated and obssessed. I don’t know if I ever really do anything that is truly altruistic, or if I see an opening to be a hero. I don’t know what it feels like to love someone and feel that I want nothing in return, only want them to be happy even if their happiness doesn’t include me. Or worse yet, even if their happiness purposely excludes me. I don’t know if I’m that big a person. Am I lying ALL the time? I don’t know sometimes, but on the flip side, I know that I’m no longer actively trying to punish the entire world for what I don’t have. I tend to think that’s a good thing, even though I hate alliteration but am too weary to go back and reword this sentence to remove all the “t” characters at the beginning.

Regardless, there are some things that are unfair, and I have a great sensitivity to that for other folks…not so much for myself. I figure it’s just kind of the way it goes. I get more enraged at myself for making mistakes, for not seeing the red flags and warning signs, even when others warn me. I want to believe. I don’t want to have to always be looking over my shoulder, waiting for the blow. I don’t know if that’s how life is supposed to go, although it does go like that for some people. It makes me really angry to feel like I’ve been had, like I’ve been played, like someone has knowingly and intentionally tried to make a fool of me, taken advantage of my generosity, my good will. I do have good will toward people, but if I find they’ve used that and thrown it back on me…we’re done. And we stay done. Overdone. Burnt to a crisp done. It isn’t ever the same, and I really can’t get it back. I can’t get it back, because I know that I can’t trust them ever again. Moderation is not in my vocabulary; I’m a 1-in-10 kind of girl. Abstinence is a really great policy for many things. I’m all in, until I’m all out, and then I got…nothin’.

This is what it feels like.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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