I spent most of yesterday lost in the past. I had woken up feeling happy… and frustrated. I know I’ve made some astounding leaps in the last couple of weeks. I have every reason to wake up happy. Frustrated? Why feel frustrated? I couldn’t even see where the frustration had come from. It was like a slap in the face, a reminder of how far there still is to go.
Of course, I straight away began to debate with myself… am I feeling this way so I don’t have to feel so happy? Why can’t I just be happy? They’re questions I always fall into the trap of asking myself. I know it’s a trap. It follows a line of thought to where I begin to feed those self-doubts and feelings of self-loathing. In that direction lays the same old paths, the same old outcomes.
But. I know why I ask these questions now! Following that path takes me to a place inside where I don’t have to look at myself. I don’t have to face new pains. Avoidance. Plain and simple. Knowing this makes me happy. You see, it gives me a choice. I can head in the other direction and find out why I feel a certain way… and yesterday that feeling was frustration.
Feelings still always bring memories of the past. Yesterday’s frustration was no different. My mind is very adept at hiding from me what I should know. I get hints. It becomes a puzzle to solve… if I choose to follow that path. Sometimes the path to the answer is very twisted and if I follow it I have to accept the feelings with the memories.
So anyway, back to yesterday. The main set of memories that took hold of me was when I went through confirmation. Double sigh. I look forward to the day when I’m not having to cross the Grand Canyon whenever I feel something. At that age, I’d been through the worst of my alcoholism the year before. I’d changed schools, made a new friend, had a new boyfriend and was about to enter a short stage of drug abuse. Usual teenage stuff. Well, except for the alcohol and the drugs. Sigh.
Religion in our family was more of the tag variety… Oh, me? I’m Finnish Lutheran. We rarely attended the church for anything except weddings and christenings. I was either too young for the other stuff or they didn’t want the stress of wondering what I would do. The year I turned fifteen that changed. That was when my parents bundled me off to the church for confirmation pre-training, crossed their fingers and hoped I wouldn’t embarrass them too much. They weren’t the only parents who felt that way that year.
Now, it helps to understand the importance within the Finnish community of confirmation, at least to those who think of themselves as Finnish Lutheran. Family photos we received from Finland usually followed particular themes… birth, confirmation, marriage and death. These were the must have life stage photos for the family. There are dozens of photos of cousins I can’t name, or even tell you which side of the family they belong to, all dressed in white having just completed confirmation. Don’t be shocked, there were a lot of cousins. The year 2000 had the cousin count at over 150. No way I kept up with the ever-expanding list, especially when they’re on the other side of the world!
Anyway, off I was sent to attend the pre-training. Weekly meetings, youth group, individual sessions and the confirmation camp, all designed to bring us closer to a relationship with God. I apologise to those who have faith, but I’ve been left wanting where religion is concerned. An explanation doesn’t belong to this post, but I think I was in my twenties when I decided that I can be a good person without a manual. Note that I said a good person, not a sane one. It wasn’t religion I had issues with, it was certain people.
There were some good kids taking part that year, then there were the rest of us. The five of us were misfits and rebels. Actions might say otherwise, but we weren’t really bad kids. We weren’t even angry, but at 15 & 16 we were frustrated. Frustrated with a community we didn’t really belong to. Frustrated with hypocrites… our parents first among them, the community we were part of a close second. In our frustration we rebelled. We also conformed. It was ingrained… rebel all you like, but you will do what you have to so you at least look like you belong. It was always rebel and conform.
For the first time us five had found a group who felt the same frustrations with home and community. For all of us, brought up to never talk about family outside the family and to put our cultural community before the community we lived in, we understood each other. Without words, we understood. We recognised the signals, the codes, the almost silent messages each of us used. Almost from the moment we came face to face we recognised kindred spirits. We understood and we bonded.
We bonded… and we rebelled. I’ll leave out most of it, but our church camp was the culmination of our rebellion. We smoked, drank and got high, all under the blind eyes of the chaperones. One night we gave our pastor his first taste of Milo… spiked with laxatives. It kept him in the toilet and out of our hair. It wasn’t a malicious act by us. It’s just we weren’t going to be taken in by more talk of togetherness and belonging and unconditional love. Probably the only guilt I felt afterwards was that he was never going to drink Milo again.
We rebelled… and we conformed. We did go on to do as we were meant to, we said the right things in the right places, at the right times and were okayed to take part in confirmation. Five sets of parents heaved sighs of relief that they weren’t going to be embarrassed, we dressed in white, did the deed and stood for photos, which were promptly mailed to multiple sets of relatives in Finland.
For those short few months we bonded… then we walked away from each other. Frustration. It’s what brought us together and it’s what made us walk away from each other. To rebel and conform always. We became frustrated with each other and ourselves, that we continued to conform and probably always would.
There were other memories yesterday, of other times, other places, all with the same theme… frustration at myself for conforming, for not rocking the boat. I couldn’t see how any of it related to why I felt frustrated in the morning. Then my brother and his boys arrived in the evening. Ahhh, crap, I see, I woke knowing they would arrive and so in my mind I woke knowing that Christmas is just around the corner. *rolls eyes*
Christmas is around the corner and I’m frustrated. I want to rebel, as always, but I know I will conform, put on a smile, ignore veiled prods from my parents and count the days until Christmas is past. I know I’m stronger. I’m pretty sure that I won’t take on the family guilt this year. I’m off to a good start today already, but I’ll leave that out of this post. I do know I won’t be spending Christmas with them next year. I need to remind myself that I have changed, I’m not taking on the guilt… and that I WON’T be spending the holiday with them next year. My conforming to their view of happy family Christmas is ended.
There you have the meanderings of my mind. My frustration was with Christmas being so close and all that entails, but not a single Christmas memory crossed my mind until after I narrowed down why I felt frustrated. What a maze. It’s enough to make me want to scream in frustration.
Of course, there is one other thing. Frustration is always followed by loneliness. Moments when I feel totally alone and wonder if I’ll ever have the love and comfort of someone putting their arms around me and telling me… You’re okay. So, I spent some time with a friend on Skype at 4am this morning. I needed a smile. The few jokes back and forth were enough to remind me that I am valued. It helped.
Today, I’m happy and sitting a little in that sadness of love lost. I’ll let it be and be gentle with myself. I need to feel the pain so I can still feel later 🙂