Mason Jars

(Written the good old fashion way, in a spiral notebook late a night, and then edited as it was typed up for this post.)

My mind has a room full of mason jars. Each jar contains an aspect of fear, self doubt, self blame or pain. Some are liquid in form, and others are powder, each jar varying in size and weight. I capture these upsetting feelings in jars to keep them from me, as though each liquid or powder has the ability to morph into a vindictive firebug and torment me if I let it escape. I seal these jars tight and hope they won’t become unscrewed. This hoarding is akin to collecting various types of garbage, being too embarrassed to let the neighbours see that I have it, and stashing it away rather than finding a covert way to discreetly dispose of the shameful evidence.

Sometimes, when I am adding a jar to my collection, or when I have simply stopped by to feel the weight of a particular jar, I carelessly bump into a shelf or knock the jars under foot, causing them to tumble, crack and break.

Breaking the jar doesn’t get rid of the contents, but helps them to spread. I had thought I was finished dealing with each particular strand of upset when I successfully sealed them in their respective jars, but when the jars break, the upset resurfaces and I scramble to fit each pain back in a new jar, pushing potential judgements from those who might have heard the shattering out of ny forethought, and put the jarred pains in a more secure place. Knocking over more than one jar at once is particularly disastrous, as it can result in pains mixing and becoming more potent. I cannot separate them once they have bonded.

Being vulnerable feels like any jar could become unsealed, and when I sense this happening, I rush to re-conceal it before the stench sneaks to other rooms in my mind. I don’t want the contents of the mason jars in this room to mix, mingle and poison the whole house. I try to be careful to not track any out on the bottom of my shoes or as splashes that are sometimes cast onto my clothing during the spill. I clean carefully to make myself presentable outside this storage room.

It is difficult to place when each jar was sealed (the labels fade, or were neglected in the first place) and how many times each individual jar has been broken (or how many times the contents have been transferred) and resealed. It is always a hope that each time I seal a jar, it will stay sealed permanently . Everything in this room is cluttered, and hard to sort because it is incredibly overwhelming. I know I want to rid myself of this collection, but I haven’t figured out how.

I would certainly not like to let other people know the secret of this room unless they know a way to help clean it. Of course, since I am dedicating myself to the thought of sharing my writing online before I change my mind, here it is, on the internet, for everyone to see.

(Author’s Note: I am currently taking a Non-Violent Communication workshop and am interested in using those principles to do some mental house cleaning. The issue with distinguishing areas for growth and health [read: finding the jars that need to be removed] is that supressing “faults” creates resistance to bringing up what might be “wrong with me” because I don’t enjoy feeling wrong/with fault/judged/embarrassed/uncertain/dejected/as though I might be the cause of disappointing myself and others. There is a paradox consisting of “I sometimes think I suck, but I don’t want to feel that I suck”. Feeling bad about myself by re-opening jars doesn’t seem like it will help me feel better about myself.)

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On Invisibility

Invisible
Unable to speak
Unable to think of what to speak
Superfluous
Watching double dutch
Taking in the pattern
Never daring to jump in
Side-lined
Hearing what others need to say
Offering up all my empathy
Can’t decide to run and hide
So I hide within my mind
Self-jailed
Watching life pass me by
Don’t know how to contribute
Listening is a well-honed skill
But I’d like to learn the opposite
So I can say out loud what I write instead

Ode To My Left Thumb

Underestimated
Importance debated
It was an accident
How the knife serrated

Tore into your sweet flesh
Out again in a rush
Circle of blood pooling
Pain screams from you won’t hush

Bound, bandaged, limited
Strengths illuminated
Cannot undo bra clasps
Shower effort twisted

Unbuttoning my jeans
Not so easy, it seems
Neglecting your safety
Take revenge in these means

Betraying my poor thumb
Failing to abstain from
Harming through carelessness
Annoys my long time chum

Revenge is enacted
Private life impacted
Hard to get laid, method
Of stripping retracted

(Author’s note: I cut a good portion of the tips of my thumb off while making dinner last night [don’t worry; tis only a flesh wound], but have noticed today that actions such as undoing my bra, undoing my pants, and showering were especially awkward today while working around the bandaging. It then occurred to me that all of those things are kind of important for having sex, not that I was planning on it any time soon. Besides, the lucky partner could always help with all of those things.)

Courage and Vulnerability

When times get bad, I nearly drown in a flood of my own insecurities, fears and dashed dreams, and the drops that push the dam over capacity are alcohol.

When I am feeling normal (during well-lit months) alcohol is not at all a problem in my life; I drink socially, rarely have too much, and enjoy the brew, vintage or spirit I am sipping because I enjoy the taste and/or setting. In some special cases, the beverage will remind me of favourite places, times or people. This association makes me happy because I enjoy remembering. This happens with non-beverage items, such as novels, but a drink is a much quicker route than a 300 page paperback.

However, it seems that the ability to drink without problem is just one more thing that S.A.D. robs from me. I’ve not wanted to give up my occasional drinks during the dark months because, under normal circumstances, they are a joy, and it feels like a punishment to be self-scolded into giving up something I like. It is already hard enough to live with several food allergies (much easier to manage when it is sunny and warm outside and my soul doesn’t scream for comforts, not to mention my lack of energy/effort to cook), giving up caffeine (it also amps up the depression felt during S.A.D), lacking strength/motivation to leave by bed until another moment would cause me to miss my bus to work… It feels like S.A.D. takes a lot from me, and I just wanted to hold on to at least something without it turning out badly.

Since I decided to talk openly about my S.A.D., I have felt vulnerable much more often and intensely than is comfortable. I’m not used to displaying vulnerabilities to the world. I have fears that those I love will catch my sorrow like a cold and want to disengage from the source to save themselves. It doesn’t work that way. It is not fair for me to assume how other people feel. Since I fear the worst, I often fail to see when opinions are the opposite; being open about how I feel is an act of courage, not a sign of flaw.

It is time to disengage from the perfectionist standards I set for myself. It’ll be a process, but anything is worth it to be able to readily identify my own awesome attributes.

I Flay My Heart

I flay my heart
And here its bare
What you will take
Is your own care
An honest lass
Nothing to lose
Here’s my story
Tell what I choose

I need to tell
That love I feel
I’ve tried to hide
But it is real
I’ve pushed aside
And I’ve supressed
We’re on other
Pages, I’ve guessed

I have darkness
Not by my choice
But it’s part of
Me, here’s my voice
Partner to keep
Or partner lose
Figure it out
Your time to choose

No need from you
Outside of care
Wandering eye
New life a scare
Share your heart and
I will share mine
Don’t shut me out
Don’t draw a line

Damaged I am
Might always be
But I am good
Please, won’t you see?
Aspects of fear
Clouding your mind
Be with me now
Don’t look behind

Perhaps I’d like
Classical things
But I will see
What future brings
Love what I have
Have what I need
Don’t think that you
Must mount a steed

Undo limits
Not based in truth
Enjoy the words
Hither were boothed
Care not paper
Or building vast
Just want to love
Long as will last

On Feeling Stupid

Something I have struggled with extensively is being bothered by any situation in which I feel stupid. I dislike it intensely. This has affected my life in many ways, and recently I found what what the like root cause of this fear/hatred was.

On my last visit with my family, my mother brought up an anecdote from when I was a child (as parents often do). Picture a wee, adorable toddler playing the game where you try to put the round peg through the round hole, and the square peg through the… well, you get the idea. Usually, if I were to picture this, the child might have a scrunched up look of concentration as their brains try to train their eyes and hands to be friends, but generally I picture it with a lot of happy baby sounds and adorableness.

That is not what happened one day when my mother observed three year old Kathy playing this game. Sure, I likely had the scrunched up face, but my fury was more than that. Regardless of having mastered the idea of putting the correct shapes in the corresponding holes, I was mattering angrily to myself. It took a while for my mother to figure out what I was saying (toddlers not being completely affluent in most causes, especially when they are busy being incredibly upset). With each successful placement of a peg in a hole, I was saying, “In there, stupid.”

It turns out that an older kid had been a bossy, know-it-all at day care and bullied me while I was trying to first learn this game. Each time I played the game after this, I believe I am correct in assuming that it wasn’t with joy at learning new skills or succeeding. Instead, that bully’s voice was in my head, telling me I was stupid. This was a very basic concept, and to not understand it immediately was unforgivable. Even though I had mastered the task, that kid’s voice, repeating in my head, had me convinced that there was something wrong with me and I wouldn’t get any better because I was, essentially, stupid, and eventually succeeding in a simple task wasn’t going to prove that I had gotten better. Succeeding was a given, and if you didn’t succeed, you were a complete failure. This took all of the celebration out of completing tasks, because my mind grew this unattainable standard for myself where I had to do everything perfectly, because it was expected of me. Anything short of perfect was not acceptable.

It is important to note that I’ve never held anyone else to this standard.

It is also important to note that I am not stupid. Sure, I have knowledge gaps, and I’ll talk about those in a moment, but I am decently intelligent. I received excellent grades in middle and high school, did well in my two years of university, and received the highest GPA in my college for the year I graduated (which was a surprise, because I was disheartened by the program by the start of the second year and my give a damn was a little broken when it came to putting in extra effort on my projects). I’ve traversed several countries, figuring out routes. I’ve worked in three countries. I’ve tutored fellow students. I’ve written things that people have told me are intriguing or funny or well written. There are many things that have come natural to me.

However, there are things that do not come naturally, and that is where knowledge gaps come into the picture. Due to my intense hatred of feeling stupid (which makes me feel all sorts of not worthy and not appreciated and not needed and awful), when I encounter an area where I don’t pick up on the subject matter right away, I bolt. I don’t want to stay and indulge this horrible fury in my head and heart. In the past, I have always just sat quietly, hoping no one would ask my opinion, because I didn’t know enough to form one. For example, I know little regarding politics, and since it is a rather broad field of study, I feel overwhelmed just thinking about learning on the subject. When it is a subject that does not come naturally to me, I find it pretty much impossible to read a text book on the subject and absorb enough information to feel confident in speaking on the matter. I need to be told verbally, as this helps me cement the ideas in my head, or at least give me something from which to parrot until I have worked through all the details.

The only problem with this type of learning is it involves the active time of another person. Obviously, it takes time for people to write text books, but they don’t have to be present while I read them. I feel a need to consult people on subjects that have me baffled, but I have an aversion to taking up other people’s time, especially since I am not very pleasant when I am frustrated. Ask anyone who has ever played Chess with me; I am usually unable to cry unless incredibly sad (see note at the end), but I have been known to weep while attempting to play Chess because I beat myself up about not seeing the moves ahead of time.

I love learning, but I get upset when I don’t understand things. This lack of understanding makes me feel stupid, regardless of the existence of proof otherwise. I know that I cannot be an all-knowing being, but I never want to stop learning – especially not because I have overstepped my capacity to learn. That is not possible. We can always continue to learn, but I need to accept that my absence of knowledge on any particular subject does not make me stupid. It just means I haven’t gotten around to learning that yet.

I also want to be able to celebrate any intellectual successes. I am working on this. I was filled with pride when I received the first ever feedback from my recent novel and it was positive, so I am learning this skill. It just might take a while to make it habit.

On crying: I am usually unable to cry unless incredibly sad and sometimes I still cannot cry, even if I want to. I’ve spent too much time not wanting to cry because I viewed it as a personal weakness, again, in just myself; I am supportive when other people cry, but before being self aware of my hypocrisy, I never gave myself this kindness. Now I sometimes feel that crying would make me feel better, but lack the ability to just cry and get it over with.

On Rest

Sleep tosses and turns
As I curl within the
Smooth sheets on my bed
Wanting nothing more than rest

Sometimes it creeps
Like fog, ever drifting
Lightly moving my mind
In and out of realms

Sometimes it is severe
Like crashing into a brick wall
Awaking is equally startling
But sleep fights to reclaim me

Yearning for peaceful
Transitions and postures
My body tries to heal
Working around the mind’s schedule