Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Devil, The Deep Blue Sea and Me

It’s been a while since I’ve written for pleasure, or relief, or for personal gratification of one sort or another.  I’ve been knee deep in school work and playing a very strategic game of cat and mouse.  A few shell games and maybe a bit of chutes and ladders, as I attempt to tackle the arduous task of pursuing an MPA while curating a couple of art shows, launching my last little baby boy college bound, working full-time in that otherwise known field of calm and relaxing, or special education.  So I do all sorts of couch acrobatics to see how I can stay seated long enough to at least be ready to work on reports and essays and reviews.  I move to the kitchen table to take it a bit more seriously.  I gather my belongings and lay everything out on my bed, better known as command central.  I peruse the photos for the art show, I create a web site,, I self-promote and send out submissions, I read a few essays on public policy, I receive invitations to one show and the potential for another. 2014 is already becoming busy.  I listen to another chapter on my kindle, bureaucracies are soooo sexy.  OK they aren’t but I have to reframe a lot these days to make it all palatable or at least approachable.

If I could illustrate the process it would have to be animated.  It would be me on my couch with some other-worldy power holding me down against the couch, or a wind machine, locking me into place, forcing me to finish my budget review, my literature reviews, my forum discussions at 12:50 AM prior to the fast approaching deadline of 10 AM Monday mornings, when I am at work, and have been for 3 hours.  This week is the final week.  I decide to tackle Domestic Violence and look into government agencies that have been created to deal with the issue for my 18 page paper.  Honestly, this should result in a quasi doctorate, don’t you think?   

There is a new process rising from this particular exercise.  For this topic, I am in need of scuba gear.  It's going to take me into some deep, dark places under the surface.  So I gear up, the foamy neoprene suit, tight and constricting.  My tactile defense system on high alert, but my goal attainment system has the upper hand.  I will have to suffer the chafing and breathe through the screaming itch.  Slowly, the tightness, the pressure of the suit will comfort.  Or maybe that’s been my reframing system at work.  I think of it as comfort, but it is really submission.  I can’t do submission without some outside force.  Which is really just oppression with a sunny disposition.  But not exactly.  At times I needed to be held down against myself, my need for flight, my need to curse and yell down the inequities and injustices and subversive oppression that exists in plain sight.  For me, for quite some time, this occurred often between the dinner making and the polite kisses goodnight, nearly unrecognizable.  Subversive.  Oppression.

I’m in the suit.  I have adapted.  I have quieted and stilled my need to rip it off and feel air, and sweat, and nothingness on my skin.  To make sure I can handle this, I need to add more. Weight. The Bouyancy Compensator, the tank.  The yin and yang.  One to help me float. One to ensure I sink.  Not exactly the fight and flight apparatus that I had been erratically tap dancing to in my effort to deflect the neon-colored classic signs of deception.  The abuse, emotional, manipulative and charmingly delivered was often missed because I was thrown off by my own reactions.  That’s how it works.  With ease and calm.  Control. Triggers.  Reactions.  Shame and submission, or repentance, which makes the victim feel… culpable.  Deserving.  At fault.  Why doesn’t she just leave?  She must like it.   It was hard to come to terms with my emotional responses to intangible stimuli, imperceptible provocations, and gaslighting.    The emotional manipulation meant to confuse, or lead people into doubting themselves.  A type of manipulation easily used on women.  It supports the generalized view that we are crazy, irrational, sensitive, unpredictable

I have this report to complete and I realize I am adrift.  In and out of research and personal experience.  Unfortunately, for me, going into the depths of the issue to see it directly, to understand my role in it, is necessary.  Although seemingly sadistic, I want to be certain I have the proper skills and attire to ensure I am more than just a survivor when I am through.  I want to be informed.  I want to unlearn aspects that have made it possible to be in this position.  That my voice can only be heard when it is emotionally charged, and sounds like rage, or fear, or is otherwise incomprehensible.  That it is OK to be dismissed and disregarded.  That it is expected to be second, or not at all, on documents, finances, decisions.  That I will never be equal, or have equal rights.  I want to unlearn these now still common truths.  I want to dispute them and advocate against them. 

I have been in between the devil and the deep blue sea, like all that suffer domestic violence, physical and/or emotional.  Overtime, or at some point it starts to feel like there is no way out, no where to go.  It also feels familiar and not exactly safe, but maybe at the very least recognizable.  And nothing much else is.  I lost so much of myself.  Handed it over, laid it down, gave-up and gave in, I forgot who I was.  Forgot who I could be.

In most cases of domestic abuse, the situation has not been discussed elsewhere.  It has been masked.  At times foggy, but still protective, the mask has a few purposes.  It covers the shame.  It shields the view in as well as, out.  Occasionally it brightens and clears and makes everything seem bright and possible.  My mask helped hide all that was wrong.  I became the mask for another and helped perpetuate further deception.  Again, making me somewhat culpable, or an accomplice in my own demise.

I was drowning.  Much like decompression sickness, I was trying to metabolize impossible amounts of nitrogen, or reality, and as a result started to paralyze my sense of intuition and increase my dangerous need to adhere to the choices I made.  I needed to let go somewhere, I could no longer hold on to anything.  But what?  The choices seemed equally devastating.  It seemed I was between the devil and the deep blue sea, and neither were very appealing.  If hell, or death by drowning are your only choices, you might as well get the proper gear needed for optimum survival.
I started to suit up, maybe prematurely.  I gained confidence.  I started to catch glimpses of my earlier self.  I began to feel alive again.  I stopped questioning myself and was able to see much more clearly.  I no longer needed the mask or wore it.  I stopped being the mask for another.  I did not feel culpable and I did not blame.  I looked forward.  But I rocked a boat that had been moored for a long time. To survive the rocking, I jumped ship.  I was accused of rocking the boat.  Craftily.  Devastatingly, but in the end, not.  It was eye-opening and revealed more than I had ever imagined. Worse than I ever wanted to see.

My research is helpful.  But most of the findings are common place and relate to power dynamics.  Controller and submitter.  Sadly, this is all considered a new issue and courts and advocacy groups are not trained well in it, yet.  There is a new trend growing that is remarkable in it’s evident and transparent manipulation.  Jeff Landers writes about it in Forbes magazine.  His article explains how men are upending domestic violence laws in divorce proceedings.  Of course, it's not always gender determined. Men can be the victims, but it's not typical and statistically it has a very different dynamic.  For me, it seems pretty easy to spot, although for many years it was not.  In spite of the ritualistic silencing and guarded privacy that victims often exude, there are signs.  Perpetrators don’t leave.  With the kids, that they had to ask permission for.  Without a car.  With only what they could carry, or take out quickly. Perpetrators victimize.  They feel entitled.  They make demands and act out when they are not met.  They stalk.  They come too close long after they were told to stop.  Last week in fact.     

I was not able to speak up for a very long time. I was ashamed and unable to face the truth of it all.  After, I was made to be quieted by the very agencies in place to protect.  Had I attempted to speak, I would have been emotional, erratic, frustrated and angry at the court sanctioned and supported victimization.  I gave up, and gave in, and lost assets.  I traded them, anyway.  For myself.  Maybe that’s a sadistic view of equity that I needed to reframe to come to terms with.  I settled for little to make sure that I would not be victimized any longer.  I am worth more than all of the combined and hidden assets, so in the end, I got more. I got everything of worth and value.   I came out on top, ready to dive into crystal clear waters. 


There have been starts and stops.  Ear-popping, lungs deflating, surface mishaps that I needed to be pulled out and rescued from.  Quickly.  I have adjusted the pressure and tried again.  My lungs expanded too much, I could barely keep myself grounded.  I was elated by the freedom.  I overreacted, and swam too fast attempting to catch up with the sea turtles and the shiny fish and show them I was there.  I tried too hard to play, to jump back into the water before I could scream “Marco Polo”.   I met up with a few sharks.  One, and another, coming too close, poised to intimidate, in my pool.  They took a few big bites out of my fun, slowed me down, reminded me that danger is real and easily recognizable.  I don’t need to question that any longer or react to it ineffectively.  I can name it, with confidence now.  I am learning to let go of fears and fights that belong elsewhere, far behind me, at the bottom of the deep blue sea

It is sometimes said; what you don’t know can’t hurt you.  In scuba diving it is said; what you don’t know can kill you.  This resonates for me.  Scuba diving is not about speed or reaching a destination.  It’s about knowledge, and conditioning, and exploration.  I’m just about ready for my giant stride entry.  If that fails, I can backroll, or try a forward roll entry.  There are safety stops built in.  Oh, screw it all! I am going to dive off the high dive and make a loud, splash.  But a giant stride entry?  We all need a few of those.  

Big, Confident, Hello, happy to be right here.  And how the hell are you?!

No comments: