And it does, you know. Through the damnedest of ways.
This past Friday, it spoke to me via celluloid. More particularly, through the movie, The Help. This flick is about the conflict of Black maids and their White female “overseers” in the Deep South back in the early 60’s. The film was good, a bit overly ambitious in parts, but essentially, it conveyed the Black Maid Experience–from a White perspective. But that’s not the gist of this post. I spent the 60’s growing up in South Central Texas. The movie didn’t exactly hit home with me–that wasn’t my experience generally speaking, but one line from the movie, certainly made me think.
I don’t want to offer a spoiler of any kind, but suffice it to say the general plot involves a young White woman who’s an aspiring writer. She decides to write a book from the perspective of the often abused and misused Black maids in Jackson, Mississippi. The difficult part is getting these women to risk breaking the law by talking about their negative experiences cleaning White homes, cooking for White families and taking care of White children while their own flounder in Black homes, as their earn paltry salaries for working long, thankless hours for certain White women who’ve been taught since birth, to be the cruelest of racists, even under alll that deceptively docile Southern charm and elan.
Forgive the run-on sentence.
Towards the end of the movie, as the young White woman and her two Black maid subjects were saying goodbye to each other, one maid—wizened by hardships, tells the aspiring writer to “go find her life”.
I don’t know why, but hearing these four little words, so insignificant in their singularity, but ungodly powerful when combined, literally took my breath away. For a few seconds, I squirmed in my seat, unable to breathe and then once, my lungs started working again, I began to cry. I remember feeling rather foolish that one sentence out of so many from one screenplay completely resonated with me and could affect me as it did.
Then again, why shouldn’t it? Everything else was doing a number on my emotions; taunting me in different mediums–coffee commercials; schockly pop songs; dogs crossing the street….candy wrappers blowing haplessly in the breeze. It seems no metaphor is too lame these days.
You see, I’ve been going through some changes. Not just external ones–internal ones, too and in addition, I’ve been resolving a lot of unresolved relationships that I thought were dead and buried. One of the reasons for my emotional malaise is that I just dug up and reburied two former relationships in as many weeks, but this time, they were given proper funerals. I said goodbye to these men and they said goodbye to me and this has saddened me, but for reasons beyond the obvious ones. I know that I’ve lived a life in which I never properly let go of any of my old hurts and soured relationships. I held them close; never wanting to release them no matter how bad they were. I knew they were over, but I never processed how or why they ended. And when they ended–and they always did, I’d just lapse into this depression, wallow in my pain and wait for time to heal me. But all time did was place distance between me and my scar tissue. I never addressed the real reasons–theirs or mine.
Why did I do this? And in this same repetitive manner time after time? I don’t know why exactly. That’s the big mystery, but as I sat down at my computer to confront all that writers’ deal with–the tyranny of the blank screen—I began to compare what I was feeling with a program that was on TV. It was about hoarders. And then it hit me–I think I just might be an emotional hoarder.
Growing up, I knew of two elderly women who were housemates. Both had been nurses during World War II…the Pacific Theater, to be exact and both were tremendously obese. My mother told me that they’d been taken prisoner by the Japanese and somehow, endured the abject horrors of the Bataan Death March. They nearly starved to death and since being freed, they became compulsive eaters out of the irrational fear they might go hungry once again. Inexplicably, yet understandably, tormented people react as they react. Trauma I’m convinced, whether it’s physical or mental/emotional, alters our wiring.
Perhaps, for some deep seeded reason, I’ve done the same thing, but only with my feelings. I kept all of these accumulated relationships (the good ones and the bad ones) in a vast, but overly cluttered cargo hold in my psyche. But there’s one difference–I don’t think holding on to the memories of these relationship out of fear that I’ll never love again is the main reason for my incessant clinging.
If I’m to seek the reasons and heal, honesty has to be an ingredient of the salve I apply to all of my wounds and in being perfectly honest, I have to admit that I am both victim and the culprit here. I am both prisoner and jailer.
For some reason–out of a fear of confrontation perhaps, a tattered self-esteem probably, I never defended myself against the men I allowed to hurt me. Instead of communicating the pain I felt so deeply, I tucked the infraction away and communication ceased. Everything stopped. It was obvious that He never wanted to talk to me again and regrettably, I wasn’t brave enough to say to hell with that, contact him anyway just to tell him to go fuck himself and free myself in the process. No, I didn’t do that. Instead, I just took it. I suffered in silence which left me feeling isolated, sad, angry and emotionally depleted. And that placed me in this horrific ‘no man’s land’. I couldn’t forgive, I couldn’t forget but I couldn’t deal with any of it either. I couldn’t let go and I damn sure couldn’t move on. Over the years, this inability entrapped me just as severely as any of those pathetic, material hoarders you’d see on the TLC and A&E shows of the same name.
I’m glad to have arrived at what I feel sure is at the heart of my issues, but this is also why I’m sad. I’m not proud that I’ve wasted a great many years loving…no, hoarding, all the wrong things for the silliest psychological reasons. And in getting to this point, there IS pain. It hurts to let go. I think that’s part of the mourning process involved in this overt freeing of one’s pysche, even if you’re releasing a slew of negatives. It surprised me to feel this way because of I’ve never let go of any emotions before. I was vexed by the conflict of feeling so sad about something I knew inherently was so right.
I guess there’s some separation anxiety at work here. These things were a part of my life that I chose to live with. When I moved, they moved. I allowed them to live quietly in my heart even as I learned to love again and when the opposite happened, they didn’t budge. Ultimately, they’d make only enough room for new pains when new hurts entered the picture. And sadly, there was, it seemed, always room for more pain. As horrible as these things were, they were what I knew; what I was familiar with and even though I’m elated about finally implementing a permanent exit strategy for them, there’s still a certain poignancy to their impending departure. Hell, anyone who nurses a terminally ill patient; who prayed for the end to come soon because it would offer release, will tell you when that end finally comes, it’s still sad. Anyone who’s delivered from any evil will cry, at even the mere prospect of freedom.
For me personally, the creation of this blog post in particular marks a seminal occasion–I’m finally starting to deal with the emotions in my life. I’m finally processing the pain of past relationships and the old grudges they created. These things which I kept resuscitating time and time again, are now finite; they now have a shelf life. The purging has begun. The end result is just good, old-fashioned deliverance, my friends. And I’m crying right now, because as these things unfold in my head and on this computer screen; as I thin the emotional heard, I’m being liberated–every commercial I see on TV; every song I hear played; every conversation I have with friends and strangers alike….even dialog from some movie, is telling me I am. More importantly, I feel that I am.
Change is palpable and if you’re lucky enough, it can be very strongly worded. Therefore, when the Universe speaks, and I know it does, we have to listen and I am. Oh, make no mistake, I AM. And I’m finally…FINALLY obeying. I’m releasing. Letting go. Moving on.
And above all, I’m also forgiving.
These things are allowing me to set out on a most important journey–I must go find my life and for the first time ever, I’m travelling light.