The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

March 2023: Skeletons

Posted on Mar 16, 2023

March 2023: Skeletons

The skeletons in my closet(s) have been rattling around so loud lately, I’m sure they can be heard outside my own head. 😊 One never knows what’s going to get them movin’ and groovin’ in there. And I’m not even sure where to start with trying to get those bones sorted out and re-assembled. My skeletons might look more like a Toy Story revision than their former selves. 😉 Of course, there is always the consideration to just toss them; but something tells me that isn’t a viable option. I have to find out why they’re occupying mental closets to begin with before eviction notices can be served; otherwise, they’ll just be back like a bad case of a recurring infection.

At one point, I thought I was dealing with two separate skeletons. And then it was conjoined twins—with enmeshed siblings—which turned into conjoined triplets with siblings—to a mass grave of skeletons (and the horrors a mass grave implies). So many factors play into this mass grave that it is near impossible to tease them apart. Just one corner alone contains quite the scene: imagine the promo pic for the film Women Talking (making Oscar buzz right now) of the cast of characters (in “traditional” Mennonite attire) sitting on bales in a barn. Now add Marilyn Monroe, Jane Fonda, and Sally Field to the conversation they are having. That’s kinda what it’s been like in my head lately. Hence, I had to expand the skeleton crew to more than conjoined twins. 😉 Just Marilyn and her pals take up a whole closet!  While on the subject of films, I highly recommend the documentary on Netflix called This Changes Everything which contributed greatly to this process.

Now my challenge is figuring out what to share with you about the process of skeleton identification and reassembly. I feel a bit like a forensics anthropologist—and not everything that goes into the report is needed by the detectives, journalists, or grieving family. There is also still such a thing as respecting privacy—my own and that of the key players—who, even though alive, have skeletons in my closet. Some belong to truly dead people. Most are associated with my life experiences as I internalized and remember them. And I certainly remember a lot of mixed messages, confusion, and shame.

Regardless of the bones that kept surfacing and begging for identification, I knew it was more important to find out the reason they were all there. As I was dealing with what surfaced while looking at a photo of my 18-yr-old self (that is a blog unto itself), I stumbled upon the concept of mirages and what I have in common with the actresses mentioned above. I identified with Sally Field because of the cute factor (I hated being called cute—especially when I was angry. Uh oh. That hit a nerve. Guess that skeleton has a live wire yet!). However, there is much more to both of us than cuteness; and we both struggled to be taken seriously.

In my journal, I noted that it’s like people are enamoured by a mirage and demand that’s all we be, yet expect the mirage to quench a deep thirst, and are disappointed when we’re not who’ve they’ve “imaged” us to be. That’s what male attention is for me—a mirage—that appears able to quench a deep thirst—but disappears upon closer inspection. That deep thirst (yet another void I’ve tried to fill) cannot be quenched. No male’s attention/validation/approval can replace or heal the deep wounding left by a father. That was a tough realization to make.

I used to think my abandonment issues were rooted in my birth mother’s death. Now I see they partly were, but maybe reinforced by my father’s daily abandonment. And mom thought we needed a better mother! We needed a better father. ☹ I was abandoned by my father long before my mother chose to leave (for those who don’t know, she died by suicide, which I don’t begrudge her if her horrific mental prison was anything like mine). She felt abandoned by my father, too. And her parents, her church, her sisters. Like me, I’m certain she experienced so much shame. I feel my mother’s pain, as well as my own, because it is in me on a cellular level. I have had to heal her wounding as well as my own thanks to generational trauma.

Unbeknownst to me, I have been searching my entire life for my dad—who was metaphorically never involved to begin with, but physically around. My dad is the mirage. And every bit of male attention has been similarly a mirage—just as I (like Marilyn, Jane, and Sally) have been a mirage to many males. But the mirage is not my True Self (my core, my divine spark or breath of life). I have spent my life chasing mirages as well as being one—and thinking there was something wrong with me rather than the perception—a trick of the eye and atmosphere.

A mirage is an illusion—it can’t satisfy. Mirages also aren’t safe. They are actually dangerous. In chasing mirages, I missed the oasis I was searching for. So, what to do about that unquenchable thirst? (aka unmet attachment need—not sure if I’ve explained that concept in a previous blog) How do I find an oasis? In talking with a client about this, we realized she already had an oasis within herself as well as within her “chosen family”—her circle of safe people. Of course, we can’t skip the grieving process either. We have to own what we needed and didn’t get in order to let it go of the pain and to be open to the oasis that surrounds us. In a sense, “we’re already there.”

But my journey doesn’t end here. I went from the mirage as the reason for the skeletons in my closet, to thinking it was the imbalance of power, to shame. My suspicion is that the relationship between shame, power, sex, and love/attachment is the lynch pin; which is far too intricately complex for one blog, more like several chapters in my book!

Suffice to say, what most of us with unmet attachment needs crave, is to be seen and heard. To be loved and cared for. To express our needs and have them met, without shame—and not to be shamed or pressured into meeting the needs of others. This blog can be viewed as an attempt to be seen and heard without shame. Maybe it is part of my oasis?

This convoluted mess is “my book,” my life story—right from day one: attachment needs twisted into the web of power, shame, sex, and love. Imagine my surprise to find that it’s a web that keeps the skeletons in the closet. How apropos! Cobwebs and skeletons inside my spooky psyche! 😊 There is much work to be done yet in processing this mass grave of skeletons. This is just a mid point on a long journey through the desert (my apologies for the mixed metaphors, but they do lend to each other well). Hopefully I will find an oasis whenever I need refreshment—being ever mindful of the role shame plays in preventing me from quenching my thirst at a legitimate source. And as each skeleton is seen and acknowledged, maybe the associated ghosts will be able to find peace.

As a PS: I am sorry for the delay in reading and responding to comments. The program no longer sends me an email, and I forget to log in to check. As well, the program doesn’t email you to let you know when I respond. But I do love people interacting with what I write. Please keep doing so.

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