The Sting of Text

Texting saved my life.  Or at least acted as a life line.  I would be in a very different place today if texting had not existed during my initial descent into untangling myself.  My selves.  Texting kept me connected to you when I was geographically far away but desperate for someone to hold onto.  Texting helped get me out of bed, off the kitchen floor, out of the winter’s night, out of the baby section at the store when I was frozen between soft blankets and woolly lambs.  You were there at the other end of texts when Izzy got her period, when Jill refused to talk to other people. You were there at the other end of texts when I was lost, literally and emotionally. Those were crazy days.  Messy days.  And I made mistakes.  I couldn’t understand about boundaries and your own space because for me, just then, life was about holding on anyway I could.  

Then there was the time the texting stopped.  Cold turkey.  It was like a huge slap across the face and sent me whirling in ways you couldn’t imagine.  I felt so ashamed and guilty.  I believed that I had lost you, that I had sent you running far away.  That I had been too bad, too needy, too lost, too wrong, too hurt and you had finally seen the truth.  You tried to explain about it but by then I’d hidden it deep in my heart.  Rejection always finds a home in my heart.  In the deepest places.  

Brené Brown has been teaching me about vulnerability.  The good kind of vulnerable.  (Lord knows I know enough about the unhealthy vulnerable!) Being vulnerable is hard.  It makes you really look at yourself, dirt and all, and it then often leads to hard conversations.  Because you can’t be vulnerable without seeing the truth.  Your truth, the truth of others.  

I’m a lot stronger these days.  I’ve grown up and faced a lot of shit.  It’s not finished.  I know that.  (Does one ever get to the point where we can say “I’m finished”? I doubt it.) But I function in ways I’ve never functioned before.  I feel solid.  I feel new peace settling in and spreading. 

And yet, there are some scars that aren’t healing quickly.  

So when I texted the day before yesterday after months and months and was met with silence, I felt the same shame come and wrap itself around me.  I texted again to see if maybe there’d been a glitch in the iphone universe.  But still, silence on text.  And this old, old shame was joined with a new shame.  The shame that in this new world, where I walk more solidly, where I understand much more about boundaries, where you have a whole new life, where I have a whole new life…even in this place, I feel unworthy of text.  

I know.  It sounds pathetic.  It sounds childish.  It sounds like I need to get a life.  Especially to an outside person. I could never possibly outline all the nuances of our situation. I knew that when I wrote this it would sound whiny and pathetic.  But that’s part of being vulnerable.  The truth is that this is stirring up wounds that aren’t yet healed. And I can’t afford to hide these happenings anymore. But there are things I can do to balance my ship.  Tell the truth about what’s happening, reduce the chance of it happening again, focus on the things that are really working.  

Will I end up visiting you today?  I’m not sure.  



Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Shame makes me a liar.  So does pain. Pain and shame coerce together to make me a liar and a thief and an ugly person.  And because shame and pain are onion-like in their layers, it feels like going deeper and peeling back layers doesn’t always get us closer to the end or the bottom.  

I was playing cards with my son today.  Crazy Eights.  And I had a flash back to the past so strong that I stopped breathing and moving and being me.  Every instinct in my head said to jump into a different space, a different place, a different time, a different person.  

And waves of shame come over me, again and again.  Knowing that I chose rebellion.  I chose secrets.  I chose to stay hidden.   

I am a liar.  


Twinned Dreams

I want to be soft.  Or rather I want to be softened – more soft-hearted, more generous, gracious, kind, accepting, exuding unconditional love.  I want to love without stumbling over myself.  I want to be forgiving and generous and open. I want to live and let live. And even more, I dream of one day loving recklessly, whomever comes across my path and everyone else in between.

But I get caught in what I’ve known and what I’ve lived.  The rigidity of propriety.  The quick humour to dodge uncomfortable or vulnerable moments of emotion.  The careful record-keeping of wrongs.  The insistence on fairness (all the while knowing, knowing, knowing that fairness is so thick-laden with self-perception that the idea means next to nothing, a particle in the universe, yet still it beats inside me so loudly that I have trouble stepping out of its rhythm.)

I have both been the victim and not been allowed to be the victim.  I’ve cried and moaned and lamented and walked and sunk into the floor and gone into temporary hiding and walked into near freezing lakes in order to numb the pain.  I’ve drunk myself into memories, confession, stupidity, and finally black escape.  I’ve gathered my courage and turned back around and looked at the ghosts. I’ve felt them re-enter me and set my body on fire.

And still, at the end of every day, though I’ve more than once sat with my feet dangling over the edge of the cliff, I’ve brought it back together.  I’ve never let the grief swallow me whole.  Even though I lust after that release, I cannot find it.  I say lust because I imagine it sounds wrong and fucked up to desire a breakdown.  No matter how much it shrouds itself in shame, that truly is one of my heart’s desire – the chance to give up.  The chance to let go.  But I don’t.  I can’t.  I still make dinner for my children, tuck my tears away when they are home, read them story after story.  I still stand up in front of a class and teach day after day. I still go to meetings, get the groceries, remember birthdays, play the piano at church.  I still look functional to the vast majority of people in my life.

Because success and appearances and being recognized have defined me. And that’s why breakdown has not been an option.  Not even a possibility.

And yet I dream of it.  I long for it.  I chase after it, knowing that I’ll never catch it, I’ll never stop running and see that if I could stay still long enough it would come and find me.

I suspect that these two desires are twinned.  That they come from the same place and are withheld from me for the same reasons.  I want to be soft and generous and open for much the same reasons I want to let go and fall into my grief, allowing it to run its course – I want to be alive, to be me, to connect in real ways.  And yet, both require me to relinquish control, to live vulnerably.

Tell that to my heart and we end up right where we do every time – chin up, moving forward, looking fine.

Artwork: Shelley Brenner Baird


Today I feel like I need a new start.  I haven’t been living my best.  I haven’t even been living my satisfactory.  I’ve been allowing myself to crawl, wade, skulk through life.  Gollum-like. Fatigue, frustration, back-tracking, guilt….these weigh us down.  

Why not just start again?  I can do that.  I can.

For you

When integration occurs, you can no longer say “she did that, not me.”  The choices, actions, mistakes of the alters join together in one person.  There is no safety in saying – “how could she have done that?” because the she is now me.  And everything that she owned, now has to be owned by me, including the guilt, shame, and memories.  That wasn’t something I was particularly prepared for.  I keep living the fairytale that integration means easier, better, improved.

In the midst of this, I find myself surrounded in questions about God and forgiveness and guilt and penance.  They are pressing in on me so persistently that I know they must not be ignored.  And so yesterday, I did what I didn’t exactly expect to do.  I contacted the minister at the church and asked to meet. Not surprisingly, it seems as if he’s given these sorts of questions some serious thought.  And, therefore, he had some very insightful and sage things to say in the quiet of that sun-filled room. Most important of all was the steady confidence that he maintained throughout the hour – the confidence that forgiveness has already done its work. Whether or not I feel it, whether or not I understand it.  I am already held close. I suppose if he had been a fundamentalist, this minister may have condemned my sin or suggested public repentance or even warned me about the dangers of this path to hell.  But instead he just looked at me steadily and asked, “How do you think God sees you? How do you think God sees Honey?” And as I stumbled around with an answer about what I would say if I were talking to someone else versus what I can say to myself, he said, “Isabelle, God is a god of grace and mercy and love.  God is always for you.”

ImageIt’s true that those words threatened to undo me then and there.  But those words are true enough and big enough that they aren’t going to undo me in one brief moment.  Those are words that are going to undo me over time. They are words that are going to grow and deepen and become fuller inside me.  They are words that are going to change me and bring me back to myself.  


“Every man has some reminiscences which he would not tell to everyone, but only to his friends. He has others which he would not reveal even to his friends, but only to himself, and that in secret. But finally there are still others which a man is even afraid to tell himself, and every decent man has a considerable number of such things stored away. That is, one can even say that the more decent he is, the greater the number of such things in his mind.”

F. Dostoevsky


Is confession good for the soul?  I’m not always sure.  But tonight I confess.  I confess that I’m not as solid as I thought I was.  I confess that I’ve been switching again.  I confess that I tried to keep it a secret for quite a while.  I confess that I made a mistake when I decided to watch the United States of Tara. I confess that the cycle is starting to get harder and harder to control.  I confess that the nightmares are back.

I confess that I am failing.  I have failed. 

Jill’s Musings

I realize that I’ve been the only posting on here.  I used to make an effort to get the others’ words up here but I haven’t been doing that lately.  And lately Jillian has been writing a fair amount.  Here are some of her thoughts.


I think about the castle a lot.  I wish there was some way to be back there.  I wish I could build those walls again.  What I want is to feel safe.

Maybe this house we live in is supposed to be like that.  I think maybe it’s supposed to feel safe and warm and good.  But it’s only sometimes safe.  And I think that the sometimes safe makes it actually feel really unsafe.  Sometimes I want to be there, especially when the house is quiet and I can be alone. I kind of like being alone in her house.  It’s calm there.  And I can play the piano if I’m really alone.  Sometimes I look through all her things, trying to understand and learn.  Sometimes I hide away from her things and imagine I really am all by myself again.  I like being all by myself.  I really do.  Then there is L.  I do love her.  (Can you believe I wrote those words?) But loving her and being near her is getting more and more difficult. She’s growing up.  She notices that I’m different.  She asks me lots of questions that I don’t know the answer to.  And now that she talks to other people, like G, she tells about things I’ve said or done with her.  There isn’t the same safety with her.  Even though I want to be with her and watch her and talk to her, I think maybe she’s too grown up now and I need to stop.  I don’t want to confuse or upset her.  I don’t want her to ever feel strange around me or any of the others.  Do you understand how sad that is for me?

There are times like this when I get overwhelmed by how difficult the world is.  There are so many things I don’t understand. And I don’t understand why I’m slipping out when I don’t want to. Why am I coming out at night so often again?  Why is the baby crying so much?  Why do I feel like walking and walking again?  Why can’t I just stay away?  Why can’t I rebuild that castle?


I’m going to walk tonight.  I can’t stay still.  I either have to talk or walk and there’s no one to talk to.  So I will walk.  And yes, I know it’s cold tonight.


Missing someone is hard.  Did I make the wrong decisions?  Did I trust someone who is trustworthy but just not close enough?  Did I open up too carelessly?  Did I make someone into a knight who had no natural inclination to be a knight?  Did I make him a knight because he loves me?  He has become a knight to me.  It hurts to think about him.  It hurts to know that I can’t reach him anymore.  At least not in a way that feels safe.  There isn’t any time or place where we can sit down beside each other and talk.  I can’t tell him about L. or about the night walking or about the baby.  It feels like all the decisions I made haven’t been quite right.  He heard me.  He helped me.  He held my hand.  And I thought that was good.  I thought that opening the closets would help me.  I believed and trusted him.  There was freedom in that.  But after that freedom, is a big, gaping black hole.  It’s pulling me closer and closer to its self.  I feel abandoned to fend for myself in a world that I just can’t comprehend.  I’m like that child in school who just can’t make the numbers on the chalkboard sit still or stay the same shape.  I’m not equipped to live the way he and others expect me to live.

White Flag

It’s no secret that I want to get better.  It’s no secret that what I want is to be one person, living in one body, existing in one time frame.  Most people take that for granted.  I dream about it.  In fact, I want it so badly that I’ve risked so much, perhaps even survival, to get to that place.  And even though great strides have been made, it still feels so damn far away.  I’m pretty sure I wrote an entry like this not so long ago.  I’m pretty sure I’ve been in this exact place, acknowledging that I was in the exact place I was last time I wrote like this.  And that, dear selves, it what I’m having a hard time with just now.  Cycles and repeats and back tracking and forgetfulness. And pretending.  Pretending that I’m okay, that I can just keep going on this track because things are calm inside. 

There’s been some drama around me lately.  Not particularly inside me.  Within that drama I’ve felt pretty strong and pretty solid.  And I have been pretty strong and pretty solid.  That’s a truth.  But the other truth that I want to run away from is that it’s not all okay yet.  It’s not all fixed up.  There’s a whole lot of duct tape holding this all together.  There are still others inside who are waiting, hiding, spying.  Not a multitude but those three – Jilian, Beloved, and the Baby.  They aren’t budging.  I’ve tried everything I know how to do to get them to budge, to move closer to the others, to each other but they aren’t giving.  It’s a bit like the Cold War, and I’m wondering what our Bay of Pigs is going to be.  Or will it just forever stay like this?  I’m raising my White Flag of surrender.  Is this life now?