Katie can't talk; she's non-verbal. She spends most of her time and energy, trying to connect with others. She uses her body, her eyes, her smile, her hands, gestures, behaviors and sign language to communicate. Because Katie is mentally disabled, her knowledge of sign language is limited to that of a young child, kind of. Katie understands spoken English just fine but she has a limited ability to express herself, in part because I crapped out on teaching her more sign, for many, many reasons, some of which included things like time, work, personal safety and a limited attention span. Because Katie is mentally disabled she got stuck in early childhood but not completely. She's also a young woman with years of experience, lots of hormones and sadly, trauma as well. What she lacks though is abstract thought, her world is concrete.
Despite Katie's constant attempts to communicate, to connect with others, her inner life remains a mystery to me and perhaps even to herself. I wonder what stories she tells herself. We need language to explore our inner workings I think, to tell our story, even to ourselves.
I'm imagine most people in the world feel like this; we want connections to others and even more importantly, we want to be seen and accepted. But what happens when we don't even accept ourselves? When we hide parts of ourselves? When we decide that parts of us are unacceptable? How deep do we bury those parts?
Maybe we're like closets, overstuffed with useless stuff from our lives. That time we were told we were too loud, that's at the back of the closet and we don't like to look at that, makes us cry. That time you laughed when somebody else was bullied, instead of you and you just felt relief that it wasn't you being bullied and then you felt guilty and thought you were a horrible person. That time when you hadn't slept for weeks and your husband was always gone and you thought about smothering your children and then yourself. Or that time when you hated even the sound of your mother breathing because you knew she was getting old and was going to die and leave you. Or that time when you were drunk, in a parking lot and kicked that glass which broke and scattered broken glass everywhere. The snipes you took at your sister, making your best friend wait (all the time), lies you've told, people you've hurt both on purpose and inadvertently, and your anger.
Or what about that anger and grief from all the hurtful things your family has done to you. Do you hang onto that? What if the anger that once served to protect us, now only keeps us apart from others? What if the trust that was lost as a child never returns because it hurt too much and who wants to go through that again? What if we spend so much time protecting ourselves from people that we no longer let anybody in? Do we just sit behind a wall of hurt and anger and shame (a wall that was built as a child to keep us safe), keeping the world and everybody else out? Is it better to be alone? Is hiding from the world and from ourselves the answer?
Or can we start to clean out the closet? Throw out the shit that doesn't fit anymore? You're not really shy now? Get rid of that. All that anger you had, it was actually grief for all the things that hurt you (babysitting for your sister while your drunk brother in law talked for three hours on the phone about killing himself), your drunk husband (the only reason I drink so much is because I can't stand being here), or your very unhappy husband (I only wanted two children, after Katie's birth), your dad shaking in anger, being bullied, being sexually assaulted (in the park, at work, in my own marriage). Perhaps it's time to let go of these things, time to forgive because holding onto my anger hasn't done me any good and it's taking up so much space in my closet (life) that it doesn't leave much room for good stuff.
And really, I want the good stuff, but to get to the good stuff, I have to look at all the stuff in that closet, which is a big job, a painful job, but a necessary job because I'm tired of all that shit that doesn't fit, that doesn't serve any purpose anymore, except to keep me apart and scared and angry and alone.
What if I can be kind to myself? If I can forgive myself for the hurt I've caused others? If I can accept that young people are selfish and that's okay? What if I can accept my impatience and my judgement and see that they served me once but that it's time to let go of them, and not only that but accept my anger because a lot of bad stuff happened and that anger helped to protect me and sometimes there are good reasons to get angry (but I don't need to be angry all the time). What if I can let others in to my heart?
What if my heart grew three sizes? Would it hurt? Or would it just be wonderful?