BE-FRIE...ST-NDS: Purging, Keeping, Losing, Releasing
Except for those of us who don't have reliable access to our memories...
If you're just joining us, you may not know that my mom is one of my best friends. We have a spooky psychic connection and we share an oddball sense of humor that few other people get the way we do. We are long-time artistic collaborators: sewing projects, crafts, music, movement, galleries, words. We take a lot of outdoor walks, and have developed a new obsession lately: photographing nature, art, and other intriguing oddities we find en route. We routinely halt the entire day's progress to snap off a picture of a friggin' flower or a skeleton or a fascinating find. "Gotta whip it out," we joke. (That would be our cameras, but...you know.)
Who is Horns and who is Geek? We tend to trade. Or share.
As such, the gifts my mom has made for me and things we've made together have an extra special place in my heart, especially considering the years that were stolen from us by disease. We also spent 17 years across the country from one another when I lived in Colorado. As one who dwells half the time in the Underworld, and has danced intimately with death more than once, I am acutely aware that any millisecond I spend with her could be the last.
Covid exacerbates this. Once again, disease has stolen the time we could be spending together. She's over seventy and already has lung issues, so we're very careful.
Amidst this tight bubble, I've noticed that my attachment to objects of significance has exploded to the kind of relationship once reserved for my Binkie. (My pale yellow baby blanket I apparently had a hard time letting go of.)
Remember that gorgeous prom dress Mom and I sewed together during my senior year of high school? It's one of my favorite dresses that I've ever had, not only because it was so beautiful and one-of-a-kind. It's because the sentimental value of it was irreplaceable.
Even so, I only wore it one other time, for New Year's in college. It was as gorgeous as ever. It still hugged me like a glove. But it just felt...wrong.
Science is finally proving that trauma can get stored and trapped in the body. (1, 2) The same is true with objects, particularly those of high sentimental value. I didn't know that back then, much less have any clue how to banish that type of energy from my environment and belongings. I had even less clue how to get rid of it from my cells. (3-10)
The only tool I had back then is one of the most powerful: de-cluttering. My mom had taught me at a young age to put toys I no longer played with into the bag for Goodwill, to let someone else enjoy them and to make room for the ones I did want.
But I had no idea what to do with the stuff I still dearly wanted to use--stuff I still loved but it did not "spark joy" in me, as Marie Kondo says. (3) Instead, it sparked discomfort. When I began poking into this sensation, I found buried rage and grief festering there.
The moment I had walked out our front door and climbed into my boyfriend's dirty truck on the way to my senior prom, the magic spell Mom and I had woven into making my outfit broke. I could never look at it again without those old emotions sweeping over me in a wave: the revulsion and smoldering anger I had shoved down beneath a hollow smile as I posed for pretty-pretty photos at the edge of the woods behind Shane's house.
The disenchantment of my senior prom--such a public spectacle of our supposed "love"...the turbulence of that too-long relationship...the shock from his final assault after our breakup...all those things had infiltrated the threads of that gorgeous fabric, marring the ensemble as thoroughly as his nasty, grunged-up sneakers scuffing along at the bottom of his sharp, black tux. (A choice, not financial necessity.) Shimmering within the blue satin and that luscious paisley, all I could see was his slick smile, his piercing hawk eyes, and his rakish mullet. All I could feel was his hand around my throat and everything I had longed to do in retaliation.
Eventually, I had to get rid of that dress. I lovingly, mournfully, tearfully, angrily folded it up and crammed it into the bag for Goodwill, along with the prom dress I had worn in junior year.
My mom and I had been so excited about that one, too.
She took me to our favorite eccentric shop along the boardwalk of Lake Superior. We picked out truffles and giggled over them, like we do. Then we puttered around the oddball collection of thingamabobs and toys and books and whatsijiggits before diving into our mission.
The dress we chose was so unique and bold, and Mom bustled around the store, searching for just the right accessories. She's always been awesome at that. Watching her eyes light up when I walked out of the changing room told me once and for all: I was unique and bold. No longer was I "ugly, disgusting, revolting, homely, gross," and all the other things I had been called for so long. I was no longer The Dog.
I had officially swanned.
Those two beloved dresses piss me off to this day. I didn't get rid of them because they no longer fit. I didn't get rid of them because they didn't suit me anymore. I got rid of them because I couldn't stand the sight of them. There they lurked in my closet, eternally wooing me to wear them...eternally rank. All those demolished dreams, the fury, the fear-sweat, and that choke-chain around my throat, even more damaging than his big, crushing hand.
They had become tainted--those precious, precious memories my mother and I had made together, full of so much hope and joy and play and excitement about what should have been two faerie tale moments amidst my blossoming into womanhood.
I would have worn those dresses until they no longer fit. The white-and-black one wasn't skin-tight in the torso. It would still fit me to this day, not only in body but in style. The blue-and-paisley probably would have become a treasured belly dance costume once I grew into my adult figure.
But they were two more spools of thread that had gotten tangled with the festering cords of trauma. Once free of that town, that time, that relationship, all I could do was cut them out and get rid of them. The shoes, specially dyed to match, went into that Goodwill garbage bag as well, alongside the darling lace gloves that my mom had taught me how to tea-dye.
That's the thing that made me the angriest: the fact that, for my mental health, I had to purge some of my favorite things. Things that were also treasured, tangible reminders of the love I share with my mother. Touchable when she's not here. Comforting when I can't have her arms around me. Quite needed when my ability to create memory fails, and I have no loving arms at all.
I did keep the sequined beret until its elastic finally died. I also still have the sweet little purse my mom made from the silky scraps of a Christening gown. It now safeguards the memories of playing Dress-up with Mom, one of my best friends who loves me like no other.
The other memory that lives in that purse is being at prom with that one girl who knew how I truly felt inside, beneath the veneer of my upturned lips and flashing pearly whites. The seated photo above is the two of us, which I'd post un-cropped if I had her permission.
But I don't know where she is. Just like Carl and I hadn't been able to withstand the immense changes that happened when he went to college, neither could my relationship with Mari once we graduated from high school. My best friend and I did not have the stint of arguing and volatility like what had precipitated the breakup with my first high school sweetheart.
Instead, we just...drifted.
Mari and I went to the same university for a brief time, but she didn't live on campus, otherwise we would have certainly been roommates. We also didn't have any classes together. Our schedules separated us first, followed by our boyfriends.
She had begun dating the guy she had been gaga over all through high school. I had never much cared for him, because he had strung her along year after year. Plus, he had a personality that reminded me too much of Shane. He was simply older and better at it. We had one double date where she brought him to the on-campus trailer of my new boyfriend.
The guys hated each other straight off, probably because they were too alike.
That should have told me and Mari everything. Instead, we each hung out more and more with our own beaus, and less and less with each other. Such is the dark, devious magic called Isolation Tactics. (12) That was something else I'd never heard of back then.
After my college graduation, Mari and I reunited for a brief stint before I moved to Minneapolis. She worked as a karaoke DJ at a bar in town, and I would sit behind the booth with her all evening when we weren't song-birding.
We had always loved to sing duets. It was one of the many things we did together. She was my other steadfast partner in crime. Singing, cheerleading, dancing, volleyball. We both played in band--that's her bari sax that I'm horking on in that photo from our senior yearbook. It's the "Most Likely To Succeed" photo, and I can't help but snigger at how prophetic it was for me.
Being Dain Bramaged on disability, divorced and destitute...yeah, kinda feels like that, except I'm the one also holding out the hat next to the trash can. ✨🤪✨
Before we dive into the whirlwind of Dance, Theater, History, and Heartbreak, I want to polish off and share with you one of the most cherished parts of my childhood. I lost my ST-NDS charm in one of my numerous moves, but it's all still there in that little prom purse, and in my very clear memories.
Dain Bramage didn't touch much of my long-term memory, so I can stroll happily through the gallery that contains the bigger-than-life photos and row after row of old film canisters, showcasing why Mari was my first BE-FRIE.
THE GAZILLION CHARMS ON MY FRIENDSHIP BRACELET:
--A new second-grader in a purple polo with a thick, waist-length, black braid that I couldn't stop staring at in wonder.
--Giving her a welcoming smile in that dreaded war zone: the lunch room.
--Hopscotch, four-square, double-dutch, going down the slide like boxcars.
--The jungle gym, teeter-totter, merry-go-round, and caterpillar.
--Purposely pumping the swingset out of its holes by going super high together.
--Being the three "Mamas In Mumus" with Lynn, and letting the strutters have their coconut shells.
--That horrible day I became Gollum reaching for the Precious and stabbed you in the back.
--The best day ever when you accepted my apology letter and we told Queenie's Court to go pump their own swingset, becoming official BE-FRIE/ST-NDS.
--How much I loved that charm you gave me.
--Watching you stand so defiantly at The Wall after The Trench War, and wishing I was half as brave as you.
--My Steve and your Mike.
--All The Bus Rides
--All the Lunch Hours
--All the Sleepovers
--Dancing in the covert lobby behind the gym
--Dancing on the lawn outside the back doors
--All the Dances
--Winning that dance contest together in those friggin' MC Hammer pants.
--Teaching you the cheers and school song so you'd make the squad too.
--Casting you in the star position of that junior year choreography.
--All the middle fingers at everybody who had to eat their words when you proved that, yes, curvy girls can Bust A Move.
--All the Other Middle Fingers
--Debs and Maurices and Claires, oh my!
--Watching Top Gun in the theater together
--Lost Boys and lost boys
--"Didju see the size o' that chicken?"
--All the Duets
--All the hours setting & spiking the volleyball
--"I feel the need...the need for speed!"
--"Excellent! Bogus. Neer-neer-neeeeeeeer! Dude! Dude."
--Sneaking a whole box of Bill & Ted cereal into the movie theater to watch Bill & Ted Go To Hell
--Having matching, mirror-image, mile-high, Aqua-Net puffed bangs and a fountaining cascade down the side.
--Smirking together because nobody could see the blackboard around our hair when you and I sat across the aisle from each other.
--All the Laughter
--All the Tears
--All the Hugs
--All the Inside Jokes
--The dynamic duo, even when boys came and boys went.
--The person I knew I could always count on.
--The person who inspired me to be someone who could be counted on.
1) Before we get to All the Woo, here's some science of bodily trauma storage. The Body Keeps the Score.
2) Here's the book.
3) Before we get to All the Good Vibes, I am a staunch adversary of Toxic Positivity. That's fear, guilt and shame. That's falseness. It's Fakebook bullshit, and I am a proponent of Balance through a full swing of the pendulum, as well as finding center. For example:
4) The De-Cluttering Queen, Marie Kondo - "Does it spark joy?"
5) Underworld Humor: Marie Kondo vs. The Purge - when it sparks fuckin' RAGE.
7) Cleansing negative energy from your environment and the objects you wish to cherish & keep instead of chuck & torch--excuse me, bless & release. I also add the following theories to this list:
--Plants - I pet, sing and croon to my plants. They give back good vibes. Exxxxcellent--neer-neer-neeeeeeer!
--Water Elements, like fountains or birdbaths, or the water I pour with nurturing intention into my bamboo planter. Some of my favorite fountains have burned out motors, but I love them, so I pour cleansing water into them with the intention of letting it evaporate into my home until can get a replacement motor.
--Intention Altars--building beautiful shrines as the constant visual reminders of what I want to bring into my life in place of the things I want to shed. Placing things that need to be cleaned of negative energy into this type of sacred space can sometimes salvage and energetically repair them.
--Setting things out in sunlight, moonlight, starlight, wind, rain, etc. with the visualization of what you'd like to see cleansed from the object.
--Purposefully using or wearing something in a situation that is joyful to paint over the old painful memories of it. I find eliciting the assistance of loved ones helps. Tell them what you're doing. Rally your partners in crime to help banish that shit and reclaim something you love. It's like scraping, repainting, and putting in new screws on an old grungy, flaking chair.
--Energetically lick it, cuddle it, call it George, pee a circle around it, and say, "MINE!" If you're like me, tacking on a good MF adds potency to the irreverent prayer. See Netflix's History of Swear Words for the geeky explanations of why. 😈 (Yes, I do have a touch of Phineas Gage.) 🤪
--Straight up cleaning, weeding, repotting, mending, repairing. Where the body goes, so goes the mind. And vs. versa.
8) Detox Bath recipes - there are many more out there, this is just an example. You can also turn a shower into an energetic detox by putting things like lemon juice into a spray bottle. Yes, it IS all in your mind. That's the point.
9) Clearing & Smudging - since I'm allergic to sage, my favorite to burn is Palo Santo.
10) Smoke free smudging - for the asthmatic, allergic, or averse.
11) Feng Shui - the ancient art of creating balanced environments and spaces.
12) Isolation Tactics - one of the most power and insidious weapons of abusers.
13) For many more posts about the gazillion techniques I use to overcome trauma, see the Table of Contents below. There is an entire section on Healing, ever growing. Plus I use Creativity & Innovation, Dance, Martial Arts, and Writing - this memoir project is a massive one. So is journaling and writing fiction.
UP NEXT: SOME INSPIRATIONAL VIDEOS - A post that demonstrates my furious need for a palate cleanser, utilizing one of my all-time healing and cleansing techniques: humor and snarkasshattery, followed by one really good Ted Theodore Logan "WHOOAAAA..."
--OR if you want to continue in the chronological timeline, we're now caught up to my tales of college where I officially got to study dance and theater.