November 12, 2007

It's Hard...

I was the golden girl, Lynnie was right when she wrote in our book that as a child there was nothing I couldn't do. It wasn't fair, and I used to think precisely that: how wrong of god to distribute talents and intelligence and even resources so inequitably. For not only did I have natural talent at just about everything I did -- from writing to piano, from modern dancing to art as well as just about all the academic subjects, but my socio-economic circumstances were such that my parents had the wherewithal to provide me with the opportunities to indulge and enhance them as well. From a very young age, I felt both extraordinarily lucky and grateful for this, and wracked with guilt for having so much of what others lacked. And from as young as fourth grade, when I gave my ten cents for a post-lunch ice cream sandwich to a school mate I judged as too poor to afford such luxuries -- she brought PB and J sandwiches to school every day instead of buying a school lunch -- I was determined to make up for it.

When I was in Brock Hill this fall, I came to the understanding that my profound feelings of guilt and conviction of personal evil may have stemmed from infancy, even from the first days after birth (that is, from being reminded of them again and again over the years). For reasons I cannot fathom, it was continually made clear to me that "Lynnie was the smaller twin and stayed in the incubator two weeks longer than you did." The meaning I was to take from this was that since that meant she was weaker and more frail than I, she deserved my parents' attention and care, the implication, or the conclusion I drew from that being that I did not. That I should be quiet and not bother them, that I was strong and should take care of myself, did not need them as much as she did. That this produced guilt in me rather than anger may be due to some inborn twist in my temperament, but I felt that they were saying that I had caused her to be frail and weak, that I, as the bigger, stronger twin, had somehow taken more food in the womb than I should have, had in fact taken her share...Now, they did not intend all this. I understand this. I think they may have meant for me to believe that Lynnie was weaker and needed more attention than I did, as she was definitely louder and shriller than I. But I don't know that they intended to blame me. Nevertheless, I did end up blaming myself...

So there I was, the putatively stronger, or at the very least stoical twin, abundantly talented and intelligent, and I felt guilty for being, simply for being myself. I vowed that I would use my abilities to change the world, change the inequities I saw around me, help the poor and the wretched, share what I had with anyone who had not. I may have starved my sister before birth, but I would not let anyone else starve if I had any choice in the matter. Why, I would rather starve myself than let someone else go hungry first.

In fifth grade, the year we lived in England, I had a brief episode of foreboding, of warning that trouble lay ahead. I may have written of this somewhere else. One afternoon or evening, I think it must have been the evening, because I was in the chilly bathroom -- which was literally the room where the bathtub was, and only the tub, nothing else -- waiting for the hot water geyser to fill the tub high enough for me to undress and get in. I felt uneasy, anxious, though I would not have used that word, and strange thoughts filled my head, vivid and as certain as if they were memories, though in fact they were of the future. I somehow "knew" that I was not going to be able to do what everyone thought I would do with all my talents and abilities, that I would never live up to my "promise," never marry or have kids, nor even have a job and work as a "lady doctor" as my father used to talk about, nor at any kind of profession. It made me both sad but also worried because I knew I was supposed to do so much, and who would understand if I could not...? No one, no one. I didn't understand why this was so, nor what would happen to prevent my using my talents, only that I would not. And that my parents would never understand...Then the thoughts grew so unbearable that I could not take them another second. I turned off the geyser so I could splash cold water on my head to stop them.

But I soon forgot that experience and life went on and I won the all-school short story contest before we left for the States at the end of the year, so I figured the premonition, if that's what it was, had been a silly fantasy, and nothing more. I was still me, and I was going to change the world. That is why President Kennedy meant so much to me, with his: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country! I knew he was asking me to serve, asking me to give up my comfortable life to do what I could to make the country a better place, and that he as president was going to do the same thing.

I did do some things: I tutored "inner city" students, I taught ESL, I took in strangers and gave away money and food and clothing; at one point I gave away pretty much my last dime. Remembering how close I'd come to being homeless, I gave 25-35 dollars every month to the local soup kitchen. But guilt for simply being has a way of following you around like a dog's tail, like a body part, and until you truly rid yourself of it, it owns you as much as you own it. Brock Hill thought they'd had me reach an epiphany that might "cure" me, or that's my sense of it. Little did they know I understood that much all along...and it, the understanding, never did me any good. Knowing where a feeling comes from, and putting a stop to the feeling seem to be two different operations, I dunno why. Or else, because I take Inderal -- propranolol -- and do not have access to emotional memories, I cannot truly connect or feel my feelings, past or present. That's what I really fear. I want to stop taking it, even if I get akathisia again. If my BP goes up, well, there are plenty of other meds for that...But Inderal is known to stop "traumatic memory" from forming, and I believe that it stops more than that. I believe it stops ALL emotional memory from forming, and hence may hinder memory in general. I will see, because I am going to slowly cut down on my dose. It's the only solution, or it is A solution, a trial to see if there IS a solution.

Enough of this. I'm sorry if this is disjointed, each paragraph an entity unto itself, little connection between them. That's just how it is today. I'm scattered, and at loose ends. My ride never came today, so I didn't get to see Joe and talking to him on the phone is a distinctly unsatisfying exercise in frustration for both of us: Joe saying yes or no by hitting a bell and me trying to talk and ask yes or no questions. As I said, It is singularly unsatisfying. This Saturday is my birthday. I will be 55 years old and while I do not care so much, it does feel old...We will have a joint party with Gary, who is 62 tomorrow at Joe's room in the hospital. Then we will have T-day in Joe's room next Thursday. Two "parties" in a week is too much for me. I'm already dreading the holiday season dead upon us! Well, I've said enough, so TTFN and apologies for not proofreading this till Tuesday.

Posted by pamwagg at November 12, 2007 08:38 PM | TrackBack


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