Friday, May 4, 2012

Witnessing the Inner Voice

Got into another fight with my dad over the gardens at the house. I tried to find a way to address the feeling that my wishes were being given a back seat to the other person's, the one who is always more important, but I just couldn't connect with him and it turned into another awkward, slow-motion slugfest. But it didn't get out of control. And then we talked about other things. And that conversation too, was, like most, a ponderous, arguing slog, where every question was responded to with a long recitation of every fact known about a situation, most of which I've heard before multiple times (okay, I should lay off - my analyst gets the same from me some days). Every suggestion was met with dismissals or problems. Simple desires for self-expression were taken and turned into things presented for judgement as to their worth, and that, I decided, was the most tiring aspect of the whole process

Anyway, some time after the fighting was pretty much over, he dropped this story about the woman he bought the house from in 1965, and what happened when she came back to visit. (This woman had extensive rose gardens and many other plants - you can still see the indentations where the beds crossed the lawns. When I consolidated the one bed that was left, I took especial care to create a level area for seeding, and when the grass is green and healthy, you can't tell it wasn't always part of the lawn.) "You killed my baby!" she cried when she walked around the back of the house (he imitates an excited voice and there's the incredulous surprise at someone talking like this to HIM - see grand trine).

It turns out that he had cut one of her vines down from the back porch trellis because he thought it was dead, but it actually just hadn't leafed out yet. He said he didn't remember what it was, and even though I told him twice, he didn't hear me say that it was probably a clematis - that's what I think was on the other side of the old iron trellis that supported the canopy over the back door. It was there when I was very young, and I remember peering at the purple flowers and wondering what this plant was. And somehow, I also knew, by the way my mom talked about it, that it was left here by someone and was for some reason, special or different. Now perhaps I know what that was about. You see, this is how our family history is worked out - the stories about events that I imagine an ideal family would use to build their daily interactions around, the stories they fashion into the very structure of the relationships between them - in our family, they come out forty years later as an unintended side comment that is stuck somewhere or discarded like yet another piece of scrap paper.

He is still defensive about Daisy's reaction (also the first time I heard her name mentioned, though he used it familiarly, as if he were talking about something that happened yesterday). (There were daisies that grew next to the clematis, and I did the "she loves me, she loves me not" thing once or twice when I grew a little older. There were a lot of those petal things on a daisy, even back in the seventies.) The defensiveness is one of his characteristic traits, and its a kind of anxious demanding defensiveness - "I didn't know and so I can't be blamed" and there's a background of  "I can do whatever I want, anyway."  Which is his Uranus in Taurus. Not that I ever do anything like that - well, I do temper it with more awareness than I used to.

I think I'm getting a good bead on the astrological configurations in his chart, and how they show up in his personality, which helps me understand things more objectively, as fraught with danger as such an attempt might be, but that isn't legitimate to him, and I usually don't help my own case if I try talking about it, so I really can't explore it WITH him, which would make me feel like I was making a connection, if I could do it fairly. He's the one with the PhD in psychology and it seems like only he gets to know what goes on in the psyche. No, really. It gets this childish and would be cute if he weren't so insistent that his version be right. People that you are close to can be very hard to interact with on a higher than personal level. Many times I yearned achingly to be part of a family with clean, supportive discussions and stimulating exchanges of ideas about life or friendly, ideal relationships between parents and their children that functioned on rational and emotional levels. It would seem so natural, so freeing, I fantasized. And every once in a while we would get a visitor that would stir the stagnant air of our collective mind before we scurried back to our private corners to work out our frustrations, carry out our missions, alone, in loud silence. Yet, this is the family I come from for a reason, and it wouldn't work to have had it another way. It works to stay connected with this one, as crazy as that sounds. Until I am ready to do it differently. 

There was a college friend I talked to a lot during my last year there, and the one after, a time when I was experiencing some intense anxiety without any apparent source (other than the stresses of graduating with the same crazy feelings that kept me awake in high school years and a lost love or two, plus anxious, puzzling letters and phone calls from family). Much of my own emotions were kept at a distance then. She had a similar problem with her father - not being able to talk about her serious issues - which was very important to her, and I was probably as stiff and impatient as my father is today as I stood there while she talked, having no clue as to what to do, but being more than a little scared about her apparent self-knowledge and wondering if I should know something about myself in this way, too - and talk about it. Or maybe I should just avoid it altogether and work harder to make things alright in the outer world - even harder. Moon at the door to the eighth in Virgo. 

So, like I was saying, defending himself often is the most notable reaction he has to other people's upsets. "I didn't know, so you can't blame me," because that is very scary for some reason, and has gotten him out of being truly responsible rather than just acting responsible for everything and everyone so they'll be in control. Mars T-squared to Pluto and Mercury on the vertical axis. Sounds like I'm playing Clue or Battleship. I think I'm starting to unravel the craziness here. And I hope this sounds plausible to others. Because it bothered me for a long long time but I felt compelled to support his version because...well, he had a PhD, and "he works hard," as my mother would say, trying to keep the peace (Libra Moon in a family of Virgo Moons), and "He's a very decent man, always ready to help other people." "Yeah," I would say, sullenly - or angrily, depending on my mood. "But he just thinks life is a G-rated happy movie, and it drives me nuts." Sun combust Ceres conjunct Jupiter, part of a grand trine. Actually, me words were, "He lives in the era of gosh-shucky-darns." I was a little harsh. Still can get that way. I attribute it to asteroid Lilith malfunctioning in Cancer, opposite my Sun and semi-square my Virgo Moon (over-reactions). My Moon is also coming into opposition to Saturn, but Saturn is coming into opposition to Uranus and Pluto. One balancing act isn't enough.

Getting a real sense of the astrology, one that feels right...stable and sound...helps put all these disorderly emotional thoughts into some kind of functioning system. It's a way to view things from beyond the pale of whatever you're feeling at the moment, and know that you're building awareness rather than continually trying to make sense of the same meaningless routine. Getting it right by trying it out over and over again - and it does really improve - builds a sense of learning something important, a useful skill being mastered a bit at a time.

He cut the clematis down because he though it was dead (death and vines are both Scorpio things, so this has some symbolic significance; he has Pluto on the MC and Black Moon and asteroid Lilith in Scorpio). It was a late leafer, like the Crepe Myrtle I planted (mostly by coincidence) the day they told me my Aunt Bea had passed away. I thought maybe that might be dead, too, when I looked at it the next spring - was I connecting with something from back then? Is the story about him killing the clematis still floating around the property, about to be released finally, after forty-some years? I hear my father's criticism and dismissal even as I think it. Crazy thought. Perhaps. And perhaps not. Maybe he really isn't the expert. But he sure makes you feel like you should think him so. That Mars-Pluto square again, and, I think, the Chiron T-square in Gemini to a Pisces Saturn - Virgo Neptune opposition. Needing to appear to have a strong, rational mind, but wrestling with a structure demanding perfection while being completely and unknowably vague. Hmm. Open to spiritual ideas and contemplating religious beliefs and political ideologies rationally and fairly, on the positive side. I think I overheard a neighbor comment about the myrtle, too. Well, I didn't cut it down, and it eventually leafed out. Slow down, observe carefully, wait for the truth to reveal itself to you. I value that in me. That's my Venus retrograde.

And I still worried compulsively about the crepe myrtle every spring - will someone else think it's dead and cut it down? Now I know of at least one person who did such a thing, to a vine with beautiful flowers. Bad feeling. I've done similar things, even when I know what I might lose. The lure of the dangerous risk. The power of loss so easy to make real, wanting to teach you something. The thrill of powerlessness over it. I am learning to discipline it by not denying its allure.

Late in leafing out, and he's impatient. I'm a late bloomer. That impatience led to a wrecked car a couple months ago. I was careful but wanted to get all the bins in and the last one pinned my arm against the wheel when it slid off the one I had to set it on. I had been worried that others were doing too much at the house that had been my home for four years and so I pushed myself to go against my better judgment, which itself was challenging my father's anxiety to get things moved out. I also let myself wander rather than stop and plan the route ahead of time, and ended up on the back road that wound and curved, which caused the bin to slip (for once, not my speed or carelessness), so there are two things I can do better next time. And many things I did right, which is probably why I wasn't hurt and, by the way, not that it's important, still got the things into storage by the end of the day. It was a week to recover momentum. My mother fell on the same day and is still in skilled nursing, and may be for the future. This was a good lesson. It gave me a more sober perspective, which I felt again, very strongly, when I drove past a serious accident last month. It gave me a much deeper conviction to give my inner voice a bigger seat at the decision making table.

He wasn't going to stop moving forward with the sale of the house even then - I think he's kind of on auto-momentum - until my sister suggested he wait a bit. I have to talk about this stuff. We've kept things quiet to calm others for too long, and it isn't healthy or nice. And I still feel a little bad. 

On the phone with him, I wondered aloud about the ghosts of stories and plants. I'm not very good at making these things sound convincing, and he doesn't help make you feel like you can give voice to it. I wondered, perhaps it was baiting him a bit, but I need to bring this stuff out in the open for my own good, when I can, I reason. I wondered whether it could be possible that that story about the clematis vine is still playing out today. Was playing out unconsciously for who knows how long. I got confused as I started trying to explain it, because I remembered a conversation between my sister, Ed, and I about how things don't get said in the family and that divided my attention. "Well, I...processed all those there's no residual unconscious things left functioning today" he whipped off dismissively. Where did he get those words to use so handily - geez, maybe he actually does have a PhD and is keeping up with the new language?! Yeah, processed in a whisper chipper, I wished I had thought of to say, but by that point, I wasn't going to start a second war of words, and he wasn't sounding very open to second opinions. The word "process" came off with a tinge of disdain, not unlike my own careless bantering about of language to kill time or to scramble for a way to keep someone else at bay when there was too much going on. And that is usually what these conversations feel like. But at that moment, I was focusing on the feeling that my story wasn't anything but ridiculous. Sigh. Its so easy to get angry about this but it is only head anger and it just hurts me, makes me all tight and frustrated. Yet, its harder to believe you're not crazy in pondering these possibilities, as half-formed as they may be. If all my neighbors and people I talk to could take something like this and say, "of course, that is something like how it is, it is true without a second thought, that is how reality works," there would still be a brake on it in my mind because he dismissed it. 

So, I sat down to write a note to a relative who sympathizes, and it turned into a spilling out of about four or five pages of memoir material in a rough stream of consciousness, so I saved that for future material, and the next letter turned into this blog. In the first, there were all the things about him that would make me lie awake thinking I was crazy, something I did regularly since I was a teenager. They spilled out on the page quickly, but calmly, rationally, like a reporter's assemblage of notes, like I was finishing up with them, linking a thought or a puzzling memory from one part of my life to one from another, putting in the emotions, not holding back nor dramatizing besides what was there. Thoughts I had been holding onto for years, just getting finished, making a bit of clear space in my emotional self. Following them into the dark, dusty corners, for once not believing it was the way to do it to keep them in the dark, an obligation, a duty. I can see these things now and report them straight up, again, not without emotion or a certain subjective viewpoint, but without letting that certain kind of head anger overtake the recording and the reporting of facts. The childish anger. This time I'm deciding to act childishly, putting down all the thoughts, the emotions, the things that were just there, all equal parts of the experience, each given equal measure. None insisting on one of us still having to be right or wrong. It is hard to do. Begin defending or justifying myself too strongly, and he has won, my inner voice is silenced, angry and inaccurate. A simple witnessing works, and from someone or somewhere during that process, I got an epiphany - I really don't need to control what his opinions are about my attitudes and the things I do. That's what makes me nuts. Makes me rant. Makes me wrap myself in knots and argue hurtfully and ineffectively. I mean, I don't defend myself well, and he's very good at making you think he's right and you're an amateur. That therapist said we both have that attitude. Capricorn Mercury, I said. Maybe a Capricorn Sun trine Uranus, too. I don't apologize for it or want to fix it. It's just good to know when it's getting in the way of seeing something important. So, I just keep writing and ranting until I find that balance, until I find the right attitude, the one that says let go, let him have his opinions and don't sugar-coat or dramatize your reactions to them - just let them stand as a fact, as a thing that happened, that was said, something that doesn't require anyone to make a decision about who is right and who is wrong, but acknowledge your feelings about them, notice them, record them, witness them. Then something is released, a kind of healing energy is perhaps set a little more firmly in place.

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