Friendship

In the last few days I have been assessing my friendships. I do this periodically and for the first time in years I have not felt the need to discard a relationship. This sounds cold, I discard people who I no longer desire in my life. It might be an action that hurts feelings yet, that is usually the impetus for cutting someone out. What makes me assess my relationships? Need. I have needs that if my friends cannot meet causes issues.

I see myself as passionate, some will always find me abrasive. I am capable of great anger, but few people even acknowledge this. I am supposed to be quiet, docile. I fail at this. Docility is death in my world. My world is not often the world others can percieve either. If someone expects comfort from me, they may not always get it.

Assessment comes from altercation. This is human nature. My dearest of friends are years long relationships that I foster and tend. Some of my friends barely qualify by the standards of most. I do not see them for years, or only in the text of the internet. This does not mean that they are not friends. To me friendship means communion, sharing ideas, and often healthy debates.

Last night I cussed at someone for the first time, he and I disagreed. He desired comfort. He needed it. He also should know by now (and admits this) that I am not a nurtering type in the traditional way. I do offer comfort, but my comfort isn’t being held to my bosom. It is instead at times a reprimand, other times a reminder, or information that they need to comprehend a deed. My friend has made some wonderful changes in his life based on these comforts.

This conversation lead to the topic of Motherhood. The most underpaid, under appreciated and undervalued position in the world. My views on that are changing. I did not value motherhood at all when I woke. I did not see the truth about it, which I do now. Mothers are not always those who give birth. They are those who teach you, who shape you, and who truly nurture you.

I should have been aware of this before, noting that my own biological mother gets a two word title, to remind others that she is not a mother in my own eyes. She is unaware of this. I am afraid to tell her, because she will likely hurt herself. I have mothered her too often for me to comprehend the value of true motherhood. I am working on it now, struggling to appreciate the true mothers.

I had a teacher in school who went over the line of Teacher into Mother. When I ditched school, I went to her house, ate her food and played with her cats. I had her permission to do this. She saw a need, in a child who was so bored in class that she rarely paid attention, often beat on the other students or worked to hurt their feelings. She helped me grow past my torment so that I could help others. She is not why I tried my own hand at teaching. She is why I survived middle school. My teacher was also disabled. She told the story at the beginning of every year and if any transfer students came in.

She had not taken the medication a doctor told her she needed. She had strep throat and ignored it, and as a result the infection damaged her kidneys. She had a transplant and the side effects of the medications left her weak. She often used a wheelchair because her aging body was just not good enough. She also was known as a cruel teacher, harsh and strict.

She is not the only teacher I had who was known as either the crazy cat lady, a cruel person, or as the meanest teacher alive. Three spring to mind, all of them women. They had standards. That was it. Their classes are those I recall in first Elementary School, then Middle School, and finally High School, where I cared what I did. They are the classes where I actually did the work.

They also shaped my expectations of friendship. None of them told me I was bad for not being able to connect with people my own age. I can do that now, but, when I was young my brain was trapped between too many medications meant to control me, survivng other abuses, and dealing with a body that failed me. I also had to deal with being told nothing was wrong with me, except of course being crazy. No one wants to be friends with the crazy kid, the fat kid, the girl who doesn’t run because it dislocates her hips. No one wants to be friends with someone who is different.

I am still different. I cannot be normal. Normal is a misnomer for boring. None of my friends are normal. They are all shapes and sizes, and all are the most beautiful people I know. If I consider you my friend, it is a rare title. This does not mean I will not associate with people who are not friends, but it does not mean I actually respect those people.

I spent years mastering control of my emotions, hiding who I am. Now, I am mastering being myself. If you cannot handle the truth of my soul, you cannot be my friend. I am a treasure.I am not a burden. Are you my friend? I hope so. None of the friends I have right now have ever failed to measure up to my expectations. It is not always true that people with high standards are lonely. I am fulfilled, happy, and I truly appreciate my friendships.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (Trigger Warning)

Bette Davis, Joan Crawford…A movie about the horrors disabled people can face with an abuser.

This is one of the most wonderful but horrific films I have ever seen. Joan Crawford plays an actress with a jealous sister who not only tried to kill her but is now her only caregiver. Bette Davis plays all of my worst fears brought to life. She forces Joan to either starve or eat rats, her pet bird, or possibly poisoned food. Their maid, a beautiful African American woman, is the hero in this. It is she who sees the potential for something wrong and refuses to leave the day she is fired, instead insisting on seeing Joan’s character. It is she who saves her from embezzlement, being isolated, beaten, and left to die a slow and horrible death. She was cut off too, no telephone, stuck upstairs, the bell for help taken away. It is horrible to watch.Bette’s performance is that of pure evil, in the loveliest of forms.  The genius of this film is that they use clips of the actresses when they were younger. They build the story up and you feel the pain involved with Joan’s treatment.

This film also highlights the incompetence of others, enabling the abuse. The teller who illegally (possibly not at the time of the film being made) gives cash when a deposit is required. The neighbors who ignore the weak cries for help, though they may not hear. The doctors who ignore the patient’s panicked cry when she could under duress be recanting. I will not spoil the climax of the film, but needless to say, this one touched a nerve. There is murder in this story, no one wins. Hope is torn from the viewer and Joan’s character.

Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman is another film that taps on true life abuses. The abused housewife is not beaten, but is instead told over and over until she believes it that she is insane. His greed is what drives his crimes, polygamy, identity theft, and murder among them. He uses the technology of the day to prove to her she is insane. He too plays on my worst fears. He proves to me that men are evil, a blanket statement that feels utterly true while I watch this movie. It isn’t, but it feels that way. He abuses his wife, publicly and privately humiliating her, forcing her into things that were against her nature.This film was so effective it gave it’s name to an entire term in psychology. Gaslighting is the proper term for causing someone to think they are insane. There is more to this of course, but this is the best I can do to explain right now.

Why am I posting about two films made before my birth? They touched me. They burned my heart up and left me shuddering with memories. They triggered responses in me that were deeper than perhaps intended. I felt the trappedness from my previous experience. I felt the worthlessness of knowing I am wrong at all times, and that my only value to others was at their own pleasure, my own wants and needs coming last. I felt the fists of my father in me again. I felt the harsh words of burden.

I am not a burden, I am not insane, and I am free. I had to chant this at times, the wheelchair a prison during the entire time. I could see even one stair trapping me. I can only remember too well  how few people actually listened when I cried out for help. The cold stabbing feeling of being told my case was not compelling enough to prosecute, that no one wanted to protect a child from  her rapist father.

Caregiver abuse is one of the worst crimes I have ever heard of. Some call it elder abuse, but, elderly folk aren’t the only ones trapped by their bodies. Many are vital and amazingly resiliant. I am posting about these films so that you can perhaps try to feel the things I felt, in lesser measure. These films raise awareness of the plights of the hidden victims in this world. Perhaps even someone you know is enduring secret abuse. You might not be able to save them, but raising awareness even by one, can help them save themselves.

Whatever happened to Baby Jane? Be glad you are not so evil, and if you are, may you see your reflection and set your victim free.

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