Welcome Back, Old Friend

True creativity only seems to come when I am deeply sad or distressed. Times of emotional turmoil and utter despair wring out the best of my creativity. I find myself inspired to write more, sing more, create more. At times, it’s the only way I can get out the feelings welling inside, even when I don’t know what they are or why I’m feeling them. I’ve gotten better over the years of recognizing when I’m upset, but it’s rare that I know why, unless it’s a reaction to something that happened just then. Often times though, when I’m driving home from work or sitting watching TV or making dinner or whatever, a tightness will grow in my stomach, like a vice tightening on my inner soul. It grows tighter and tighter and eventually I think, “Huh, I’m upset about something. I wonder what.” Sometimes I’ll try to figure it out. I’ll go through my day, think about what happened and who said what and, in general, what could have upset me. Sometimes I figure it out, most of the time I don’t. Those are the times when I grab my guitar and sing a few songs. It makes me feel better, the tightness goes away. Problem solved. Though not really. Since I never knew what was wrong, I never addressed the issue.

When I was young (14ish) a friend and I were picked up for shoplifting. My mom, as moms are want to do, overreacted. Decided it meant there was something seriously wrong with me and sent me to a therapist. Nothing really came of it except learning one thing. I repress my emotions. Shove them way down deep and hide from them. I do it so well, I don’t know I’m doing it. It makes for the most fantastic explosions of anger and rage when you least expect it over the dumbest of things. Combine that with my issues with anxiety and for much of my life, I’ve been a bit prone to angry outbursts. That changed about 10 years ago. Suffice to say, I made a change in my life that removed a huge part of the anxiety. That didn’t fix the suppressing of the emotions but it did take away a lot of the continual rage.

My therapist at 14 (and also later therapists in my adult life) attribute my emotional suppression to the environment I was raised in. Not to say that my parents didn’t love me. They did. They loved me and my sister immeasurably. However, love is not enough to make a good parent. They parented as their parents did: with rage and fists. I never doubted my parents loved me. Of that I was always sure they did. But I also never doubted their inability to control their anger and rage. Dad was much worse than Mom though they both used their hands to solve problems. Never with each other though. Only with us. I learned to hide what I was feeling no matter what because the wrong expression could cause so much more problems. I can sum up my emotional childhood this way: In the 5th grade, when I was 10, we went around the room and shared with the class the thing we were most afraid of in the world. Most of the kids said things like nuclear war. When it got to my turn my response was simply my dad. There was nothing more terrifying or immediate to me than my father’s rage. If you’re wondering why this didn’t trigger any calls to social services, this was 1984/1985. Child abuse wasn’t really a thing back then. As long as you didn’t come to school covered in bruises or with repeated broken bones you were considered fine. And, for the most part, we were. I learned early on how to take care of myself and not to trust anyone. Ever. It made for a very lonely childhood but I survived. Unfortunately, that trait carried into adulthood and it’s one I still hold close. Mainly because every time I’ve loosened up and trusted someone, I was forcefully reminded why I adopted that stance on life at such an early age. Humans can’t be trusted. They will always disappoint. Maybe not today or tomorrow but at some point when you least expect it, betrayal rears its head and the pain you thought you’d left behind in childhood wraps you in its loving embrace and whispers in your ear “Welcome back, old friend. Oh how I’ve missed you!” And what’s really sad, is that somewhere deep inside, you feel relief at the familiarity of the pain.