No Escape by Sylvie Pickering

The Uses of Sorrow
by Mary Oliver

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

I am never more tired of speaking than when I first get back from a trip home to see my family. Actually, it would be more accurate to switch it, to say “when I first get home from a trip back to my family” but that makes little sense to the average person that is not acquainted with my past, with my personal way-back machine.

I remember, when I first started therapy, the intensity with which I craved intimacy. I could eat connection for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If it looked like love, I’d hunt it, trap it, find a way to scare it into a corner and try to beat it into submission. “You will feed me,” I would say. “I will chew you up until I feel something.”

I started therapy because, essentially, I started having a hard time with the grinding of bones for my daily meal. It was the way I had learned, but it was exhausting work that never left me feeling satiated or fulfilled. Being both the villain and the hero in my own story was getting old…and confusing. Who’s responsible, who’s to blame, endlessly intertwined.

It’s been almost three years since I walked into my therapist’s office, begging her to help me change old patterns. On most days, I can’t feel the difference between that which I was and that which I am…but I can definitely feel it when I leave home and go back. Familial behaviors are both familiar and alien and uncomfortable ways of connecting (through dissonance, arguing and pain) leave me numb, overwhelmed and seeking an exit. I no longer yell to be heard or attempt to get family members to see my point of view. I just…cease to connect. You will chew me up and get nothing.

The silence that comes over me when I return is something I’m just now understanding. I don’t want to talk because there’s no point. It’s a tightness in my chest and a deep sigh and the thought that whatever can be said isn’t worth the effort it would take to utter it aloud.

So clearly, there is more work to be done…but there has been an extraordinary amount of progress. It feels fitting to acknowledge both, at the same time.  Heart and feather, both respected.