30 July 2011


When I was younger I always loved fairy tales.  The stately ladies, kind peasant girls, wise wizards enchanted me.  I was enthralled with the idea of a prince, king or sweet peasant boy rescuing me from some garden, enchantment, or helping me solve some labyrinth.  I often would sit on swings and imagine I was a beautiful girl swinging in her luscious garden in beautiful flowing clothes.  My hair often was imagined away to be a golden blonde or dark chestnut brown instead of its normal bright flaming red.  I'd pretend that some handsome and brave guy would see me as I swung above the stone walls.  He'd be so taken with my beauty and my singing voice or kindness to the animals around me that he'd fight to find a way in.  Eventually we'd go off and live happily ever after in a stately home, not always a palace, but a place with more lovely gardens.

When I got older I found myself with no support at home because of my mom's drinking.  I didn't feel like I had a father figure, or any parent really (sorry dad, but I didn't).  I often dreamed that I would be taken away from my misery of being a preteen and having such a rough home life.  I realized then that fairy tales weren't going to do me a damn bit of good.  I didn't believe in anything religious and had no escape that I trusted.  It was about that time that I developed a lot of issues with self-harm and suicide.  I found that to get attention from adults I had to be as dramatic as possible.  That's not saying that my self-hurting or mild suicide attempts were an attempt to get attention.  The two are not always connected and in my case they were not.  I just found that if I dramatized things more I would get more attention.  At about that time I started to make my self-harm attempts hidden, at least from the adults.  I started to have even more suicide issues turned real and started to hate life and actually want to die.  I know in many ways I still wanted to be rescued but I also took time to try and rescue my friends.  I wanted to be that smart beautiful girl in some imagined world.  But I realized that in this one I would never be what I wanted. 

At about that time a male figure came into my life who was loving, saw me as beautiful and told me that I was smart and talented.  He loved to hear me sing and said I was the kindest person he had known.  This boyfriend became a father figure to me and a lover.  Sadly he was also somewhat manipulative even if he didn't realize he was doing it.  He didn't like some of my friends, so I stopped associating with them.  He thought some of what I did was childish so I stopped it.  He listened to certain music and didn't like some of what I listened to so I changed it.  I was searching for approval and for acceptance by anyone.  Later he would even cut down my looks and my talents.  Even with some of the emotional abuse and manipulation I stuck it out.  The way I saw it, my knight in shining armor was better than nothing.  I got love, attention and some respect from him when I felt none from own family or my peers.  He had come into my garden, fallen in love, and rescued me.

Later when that relationship finally died and ended I swore off relationships for a time.  Only a few months later another man entered my life who I latched onto to save me.  This time mostly from myself.  I was so self-destructive by this time that I was hardly functioning in "normal" society.  Drugs, avoidance of responsibilities, even avoiding friends and family were my main methods.  I had been cutting myself for years but it really escalated at this time.  In part due to the loss of the relationship that had gotten me through my teen years.  I fantasized about taking a leap off of what had been known as "suicide bridge".  I had a great view of it from my window and it seemed to call to me.  I avoided walking on it at all costs because I knew I would be tempted.  So here enters yet another rescuer to save me.

It seems to me that I have always turned to others to rescue me.  I've asked others to save me from my own brink of destroying myself.  I've known that I have strength and have tried to get through life solo but people have encouraged me to seek and accept help.  As we went through the family counseling for my mom's addiction I always heard them saying "you can't do it alone, get help."  It felt so wrong to me but they always said "you are helpless, you need others to do it for you".  I know they were talking about addiction, but to a young girl all you hear is that when you get in a rough spot in life get someone else to save you because you're powerless.  So now I often feel I can't do anything without help.  I swung from an extreme of saving myself when no one was around and being alone to needing someone.  Where's the balance? 

I have always loved two of Ani Difranco's songs.  In "Not a Pretty Girl" the lines
"I am no damsel in distess
and I don't need to be rescued
so put me down punk
maybe you'd prefer a maiden fair?"
Have rung true for quite some time.  I don't feel like a maiden fair.  But I also don't want to feel like a damsel in distress.  I love the song because it is what I feel I am not.  I may not be a pretty girl in the sense of looks, but I always feel I need saving.  The other song that means a lot to me is "Superhero"
"I used to be a superhero
no one could touch me
not even myself
you are like a phone booth
I somehow stumbled into
and now look at me
I am just like everybody else"
I often feel that at one point I was a superhero taking so much burdens on my own back and then I found these phone booths that were others and walked in.  Then I became powerless.  I had to have that person to save me.
I often wonder if that first rescuer felt the need to rescue me way back when (we'll call him D).   Did he always think he had to be my savior?  His little brother once told me that D said he was only dating me because he didn't want me to kill myself. D denied it but I always sort of felt it was there, under the surface.  If it was true then what would have helped me more I think was if instead he had been a good friend and told me my value.  But we were young teens and didn't know any better.  I do not fault D for that or for trying to save what he saw as a damsel in distress.  It is quite natural for a teen boy to want to seem so strong and powerful by rescuing and helping a girl.  Now with my husband I sometimes feel he too came on as a rescuer.  I was pretty down and out when we met and I ended up even lower and worse a few months later when my mom died.  So again, I needed rescuing/saving.  When he goes on conferences I often wonder how I'll get by with 2 kids.  So I turn to others to help when they can.  But I still feel often like I'm floundering.  I get through fine, but it's still there in my mind that I need to be rescued from doing this solo.

I have wondered a lot lately if I do have the strength to survive on my own.  With no kids I'm sure I could do it, and it might be good for me.  But with kids, I just don't quite feel the strength.  I don't really remember many times I was fully on my own in my life.  Just me having to rely on myself.  A job, an apartment to pay for and maintain, make friends and be entertained on my own. The closest I think I ever got was during college but then I had others to turn to and rely on.  I sometimes want to do an experiment and go off to a city I know no one in, get a job somewhere and sign a month to month lease.  Then see how long I can survive, see how I do totally on my own.  In college I was too messed up half the time to really get an idea of if I had the strength to do it.

But I've always had someone, some guy or some gal to rescue me.  I love to rescue my friends and help them out.  And my family.  But can I rescue myself?  Can I be the smart princess who manages to solve the riddles and help free the kingdom from the enchantment?  Or am I just the girl in the garden waiting for someone to come and show her something more?

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