Peace Be With You: Living The Storms

 

As I sit here writing this, I am exhausted. I am nervous, and I am afraid. Yet I am also content, happy, hopeful. Sometimes it seems that all emotions are swirling through me at any given moment, and the one that presents itself to the world is not something I can control.

I was recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - Inattentive Type. What does that mean? I am still figuring that out. Mostly, it feels like I am living in a storm all the time. I am impulsive in my actions and my words; I can become hyperfocused and obsessive-compulsive for hours - or months - at a time, then suddenly become completely disinterested and overwhelmed at the idea of continuing what used to be my passion. My mind is constantly in the middle of a bloody battleground where there are no winners; instead, the "winner" is the damaged mask that gets to present itself to the world. Yet it is not really a mask - it is just one of many aspects of who I am.

Growing up, I felt like I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time, saying the wrong things to the wrong people. I thought it was a cultural thing - my parents were born in the south, and I was raised in the north for the first part of my life. Every year we would spend precious vacation time visiting family in the south. When my mom and dad divorced, things became even more confusing as I moved back and forth between north and south, struggling to find a place that felt like home, a place where I belonged.

Most people don't realize how many differences there are between the north and the south. The differences are in everything - in the unspoken rules, the acceptable and unacceptable jokes, and in the acceptable amount of patience and reserve shown. Being impulsive by nature only made things worse. To compensate, I became more and more quiet, struggling to think before I spoke or acted, striving to read the people and the situation to learn how to speak and act. Rarely did I get to be myself. I retreated more and more into the world of books, searching for descriptions of social cues that I could not see in real life.

As I grew older, I did succeed in learning how to read social cues, but it is always a struggle. At the same time, my struggles have shaped my ability to help others ease their struggles. As I delve into my past and the past of those who have shaped me - my mother, my father, my siblings and friends - I have discovered a fountain of forgiveness for myself and for others.

People hurt people all the time. Sometimes they do it on accident, sometimes it seems they are doing it on purpose. However, even when it seems like people are directly attacking someone else, it is really themselves they are attacking or defending. The essence of my peace within myself is realizing that I am not perfect, and neither is anyone else. I strike out at people I love. I anger too quickly at times. Yet I love and trust easily. My anger is gone as quickly as it arrives most of the time. That being said, there have been many times in my past that I have been attacked by others based on imagined slights or discourtesies - actions that were usually impulsive, but the other people could not conceive of them being done without thought to the consequences.

Yet even in the midst of these attacks, I have learned to see through the attack to the reason for the attack. For example, a loved one was the proverbial "red-headed stepchild". Both parents did the best they could, but she never felt good enough for them. She always felt she was treated worse than anyone else - yet from there was no appreciable difference.

When this loved one attacks my choice of mate, my house, my pursuit of an education, and my upbringing of my kids, she is seeing these things through the filter of her pain. She has held fiercely onto her pain and forged it into a protective wall around her, not seeing that this wall is clouding her judgment, hurting those around her, and preventing her from finding happiness. In many ways, she does not even realize she is attacking me - in her mind, I am the one attacking and demeaning her. She sees my pride in my degree as arrogance. She sees my silence as disdain. She sees my words as an attack.

A year ago, a picture was posted - a sweet reminder of a painful memory - and a request was given for good memories people associated with the picture. Digging deep, I responded sincerely. My most treasured memory was the value of someone dear to both of us - "Don't make me into a saint. I have a lot of flaws. Remember the flaws as well as the good things."

My loved one saw this as a personal attack on the memory as well as on her. She felt like I was attacking her choice, her life and her values. She responded heatedly and then deleted my comment as well as my friendship status on her page.

Through the pain of this rejection, I could see how much she was hurting. In doing so, I was *barely* able to refrain from reacting in the heat of anger with much harsher words than those she imagined. Did this repair anything in our relationship? No. Yet I found a peace within myself, in the midst of my heartache over not being able to heal her wounds, and I neither recanted my statement nor started an attack in earnest. I grieved over the lost potential of growing closer through the moment, and I moved on.

It took me years to be able to do that. In years past, I would have either made sure she knew EXACTLY what I meant, in detail, with all my emotions showing, and it would have ended in a family feud involving all the family and some of the extended family and possibly a decade-long silent treatment on all sides. Or, I would have mentally beat myself into a pulp and emotionally groveled before her trying to mend whatever relationship we have.

During those same years, I discovered how ineffectual both responses are in getting what I want - namely, I want to be emotionally close to all my loved ones. I studied many different articles, relationship books and philosphies in my search for answers. Gradually, I was able to become more aware of myself and my emotions, sort through them, piece together her upbringing and trauma history, and let go.

Now, I am gradually find that long-sought peace, and it looks nothing like what I expected. I still have the storm, the bloody battlefield in my head. However, now I can watch the fight from a distance and choose - most of the time - the face that the world sees. Progress, however small, will be celebrated as the hard-won victory it is.

 

Sincerely,

Celeste

Peace Be With You: Living the storm

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