July 11 is my birthday, but it is not the day I was born.
I was born in front of white, empty things: piano keys, canvas, paper.
I was born under another white thing: the heady blindness that comes from grief,
so full of light you cannot bear its heat.
I was born each time I lost everything.
I was born all those times you rejected me and I tasted my freedom and the unexpected liberation of the unwanted.
I was born all those times you hit me and called me names and pulled me into your dark silences and I decided I’d be kinder than that.
I was born when I lost you, when I knew you: uncovered, when I saw you: revealed, when you came to me: unhinged.
I was born today in rain and yoga class. I will be born tomorrow over dishes and a sewing machine.
There is no such thing as a birthday, or reborn.
There is only being born.
When I consider these things, I also feel them in my body- the blank numbness of waiting, of dissociating, of shutting down, and the subsequent waking up. I trace it back to my childhood, where I’d hold my breath until I passed out, and then wake up in someone’s arms, getting the love and attention I’d had to work so hard for.
And that is the crux of my struggles- I seek the blank slate. I seek people who do not love me, and with whom I can repeat this story of anxious crying, acting out, being ignored until finally, I make myself disappear in a big gesture of giving up. Then someone comes. I remember in childhood it was often my aunt or grandmother. My mother was so young, or either something was happening at my grandparent’s house that I didn’t really understand.
I obsessively read about attachment theory and I am textbook anxious, only with the caveat that I’m an anxious who has learned to dissociate. One therapist, Jeremy McAllister, connects anxious attachment with your inner child. He writes,
If we reframe “preoccupation” as the ongoing abandonment feelings of an inner child, we begin to differentiate from the part feeling the pain. This is important for the present-day adult who feels hijacked by emotions. It is also vitally important for the hurting child (or the old neural network that takes over) to have a compassionate internal witness.
Oh hello, abandonment, old friend. Hello, familiar feelings.
In my marriage, the blank thing was my husband. He would turn off all compassion, feelings, and basic human courtesy. It seemed important to him that I know, and feel, the weight of my nothingness to him. It was like the Still Face experiment- only an adult was donning a still face as punishment, punishment for my having needs and feelings. This deliberate wounding cuts deep.
So, I am noticing my obsessing, and going to the healing. I’m being more mindful of my inner child. I’m speaking up for myself and not letting things simmer into resentment. I’m allowing the feelings to wash over me, and hopefully I will develop more independence, more empathy.
For over a year, I have sought the blank slate through dating. Being faced with a null, a lack of mirroring, while familiar, gets old and hurtful. It’s cut off my feelings now and I have finally come to a place where I don’t care. I can take the relationship or leave it. Right now, I’m inclined to leave it but I don’t feel I’ve extracted all the lessons I need from it. It’s bizarre how I’ve been working so hard to come to a detached place, where I didn’t need him and could leave at any time, and I could not will myself to do it. It had to unfold organically as so much in therapy does.
It’s giving me hope, though, that I can now be more free in my speech since I honestly don’t care if I’m with him. To be honest, I don’t know why I’m with someone I have to drag into relationship, who can’t reciprocate, and who cannot do feelings. I mean, I know deep down why, but on the surface I’ve received very little from this man I want to shake and yell, “I’M A WOMAN, NOT A HAMSTER!!!”
I understand in myself my tendency to seek people who do not love me, and because I have not developed the ability to accurately assess my relationships and how I act in them, I have not stopped choosing neglectful people. I think I might be ready to stop hiding. I think.