The fruitless search for the key
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Mount Delectable: Metamorphosis Series, by Crystal Marie
A recent message on Facebook from a collector turned friend, made me realize, once again, what an illusion social media can be. My circumstances weren’t anything near what they’d surmised and it startled me to realize the gap between what I’ve shared and what is actually going on behind the scenes—or irl, in real life, as some would say.
I’m in an inner tug of war right now between acknowledging how bad it is and trying to reassure everyone else that I’m okay.
“I’m okay. I’m okay. I will be okay”
I’m pretty good at the reassuring. It’s a special skillset of the cognitively dissonant.
But the reality is that I’m in a deep state of burnout and my divorce was the tipping point. Having to go through a mountain of paperwork, accounting for ten years of back income, jumping through the hoops demanded to prove I wasn’t trying to hide any resources, all the while knowing that he knew the truth of my health issues and my financial circumstances. He was toying with me. It was a monumental effort to get through.
It’s been an escalating frantic digging my way out of quicksand ever since. My finances and health are at rock bottom, chronic illness being what it is.
Reading in bed last night, contemplating the trauma of it all, my calf muscles seized up in a painful twisty spasm that was so much worse than any charley horse cramp from my teen years. This is one of the many symptoms of the final stage of degenerative hEDS. My ligaments are shot. My muscles over compensate to hold my joints in place and they’re kind of pissed off at the extra work.
In the moment between the first twinge and the full thrust of it, I know it’s going to be bad, and my mouth opens in a low guttural plea as it sets in. Pinned to the bed by the pain, my mind is forming the words “Noooooo!!” but the words that actually manage to escape my mouth sound more like “Ohhhh GOD! Oh GOD! Oh GOD! OhhhhhhOOOOOhhh!!”
Even as I’m still in it, the absurdity of the moment hits me. I’m writhing on my bed trying to escape this excruciating pain while simultaneously worrying about what the neighbors must think. Wondering if they can hear me through the walls. Even now, I’m picturing them looking at each other, erupting in spontaneous laughter over the older woman who lives alone next door, but most certainly does not sound lonely!
”Because trauma won’t leave you alone until you feel safe, and safety is not something that an individual can summon on their own. Safety is not a gun. Safety is being able to trust those around you WANT to protect you from harm. But if those around you don’t believe you are “like them,” then they will focus on the discomfort you make them feel, and that discomfort is not a safe space.”
This quote leaps from the pages of my book. It’s an epiphany in that sudden revelation kind of way. The hiding I’ve been doing is trauma based. Old wounds grounded in a lack of feeling safe. Everything stirred up by the year and a half length of my divorce. Continuance after continuance for no good reason except he could. By the time it was over I was more than $18K in the hole to my attorney and skimming along the bottom of a full blown Autistic burnout. Finally being diagnosed with it as a 55-year old woman because of that very burnout.
For years now, I’d lost my ability to dream. I used to have vivid, detailed, deeply symbolic and sometimes profoundly prophetic dreams. Now I’m lucky to have one of those 30 second predawn snippets of one. Like an Instagram reel or an infomercial flashing by, more annoying than it is meaningful. But since the divorce ended in January, I’ve finally had a handful of real life, complex and symbolic dreams. Yet HE has been central in each of them. Great. Just fucking great. Somebody torture me with reels please!
It’s always a similar theme, the tail end of the marriage, different houses, different circumstances, different cast of supporting characters. In each of them, he’s withholding something that belongs to me, while flaunting his new SHE. Showing off how happily he’s settling into his new life.
It is not lost on me that I’m in the middle of editing weekly video lessons for my Shields workshop participants. The class is based on a body of work I created to represent the erroneous ways we humans, myself specifically, hide ourselves behind dysfunctional barriers—shields, to make us feel safe.
In the opening discussion, I share how I gather objects through a simple intuitive response when I’m getting ready to create these encaustic assemblages. There is no pre-scripted meaning or intent ascribed to each element I bring to the studio table. I leave myself open to allowing the symbolism to be revealed to me as I let go of the need to know up front and lean in to listen to the art speak as it takes it’s shape and form in front of me. I recognize the similarities in the way that I dream. The meaning of each sequence is revealed over the course of days or weeks when I can hold onto that desire to know loosely, and allow what I call those highlighted moments of revelation to come to me.
The interweaving of the meaning in those recent dreams and the place I am now is suddenly apparent and it’s startling. HE represents my trauma. The HE appearing in my dreams represents more than the HE in my marriage. The HE in my dreams represented all the He’s over the course of a lifetime of not feeling safe.
The way that this divorce evolved was both a death and a rebirth for me. Both are painful. Both leaving me bloody and wailing on the floor without words to explain. Each of those recent dreams had something to do with retrieving a key for a house or a car that was rightfully mine, but I couldn’t access without the key.
I recognize now how many HE’s I’ve returned to over the years fruitlessly searching for that key. The key represented my sense of safety. What those dreams were showing me was that no HE ever had the key. It has always been with me.
Always had been a part of me.
Dammit, I will be okay!