Charter Day & I have a complicated relationship. It’s homecoming weekend, time for friends to gather & share memories of high school, even of college. The forecast is clear blue October skies & mid-September temperatures – almost too warm, but not quite. Events started Wednesday & go straight through Monday. Part of me wants to waiting right now to see the schools & college process to the cathedral for the Charter Day service of thanks; part of me wants to spend the next 72 hours sticking close to home.
Those are treasured memories. Straight through high school & college, I loved the various Charter Day rituals, from the procession to the football game to the formal dance & closing banquet, with the bonus on Sunday of seeing so many people from away at church (where we seemed to always sing a particularly difficult song that no one in Bryn Athyn seemed to know but was a great favorite of alums from Pittsburgh).
What I connected to was the pageantry & spectacle, not to what the visitors & most other townies were there for – the people. The thought of trying to connect with people made my breath go short, my heart raise & my spirits fall. All part of my complete faith in my utter UNlikability. That never hit more closely than over Charter Day weekend, when everyone ELSE seemed so connected & I felt so not.
Was reminded today, sharing just a few words with a dear friend down at Be Well, how pernicious that entrenched belief can still be; found myself fretting over saying too much, was I dominating the conversation or being boring or keeping him from something/someone actually interesting. My breath went shallow, my face turned red, my heart raced, the old sense of low self-worth & assumed inadequacy cloaked me – after all these years.
OUCH! Thought I’d come so far in moving away from those venous fumes of ancient crippling beliefs. Still have a ways to go in recovering from the 2nd-hand trauma of my earlier years.
From what I’ve been able to figure out, most of my family faced early traumas that seemed to sear their souls. My parents were messed up in their teens, my oldest brother was born overthinking things (his first words, at three years old, was a perfectly pronouced “Fox Chase”), my sister suffered a horrific (never acknowledged – ever) trauma at an early age that further impaled the family, the two of them did seriously confidence-gutting numbers on yours truly & my #2 brother; these already corrosive dynamics were coated with more toxicity when my next-older brother was killed at 11.
By the time I hit 10 years old, I could see the older family was a mess. And then there was me, all unaware, wildly verbal yet never heard with a see-the-rainbow-not-the-clouds personality that left the others feeling… I don’t know. Never did. True then, largely still true – am tolerated rather than liked.
The one thing I had in common with rest of the surviving family was that being every bit as much a mess.
Ian’s death was unimaginably heartbreaking, but the 8-year gap it created between me & the next sib, Mim, turned out to make the difference between my getting completely caught up in the massive family dysfunction & being able to take a step back & see it. That, I believe, saved me from at least that mess. And while my sibs, even my parents, did not SEE me, I had the distance to see appreciate love them.
But their dripping dislike did its damage – a crippling lack of genuine social ease that left me chatty but not confidently conversant with other people.
This morning, it was that acceptance of being socially sub par that burbled up to the surface in talking to Ryan, back in noxious bloom due to the weekend. Strange, after coming so far in gaining healthier ground in feeling self-affirmed, to feel myself slip under a crashing undertow of self-doubt.
At 65 & beyond, seems I can expect family-induced icks to raise their nasty ugly heads when least expected. Will treat it like my fledgling meditation practice – notice the monkey mind, step away, set aside language, BE. Just BE. When judgement tries to creep back in, go back to BE.
This year is the 50th reunion for the Class of 1967. Three years until 2020 – my 50th. Three years to strike up conversations, let my muscles relax & my mind comfortably connect with the other(s), breathe normally, keep my heart open, stay in the present & BE. Enjoy every moment of this weekend, whatever events I choose to experience. ONLY go to ones where I truly want to go. And once I am there, let myself BE there, without any ghosts.
Let this morning be the only time I feel… less. More is so much better! My Past Selves are rooting themselves hoarse for my Now to enjoy Charter Day‘s traditions, pageantry & PEOPLE.
Gotta LOVE fresh opportunities to have new responses to ancient icks. May this bloom be never blighted, may I hold my heart united, faithful to the pledge now plighted – my own sanity!