“Ego: The fallacy whereby a goose thinks he's a swan” ~~Anonymous
There have been so many changes in our lives... so many ups and downs. It is sometimes hard to know what to think or how I feel, and it is surely impossible to predict what will come next -- or how any of us will react. We three have stumbled and staggered and flailed through the last 15 months or so, spewing anger and hurt and fear and confusion everywhere. We've been a mess of grieving and longing and bitterness. If there was a way to do this badly, we've been there, and if there was a mistake to make, we've done it up in grand style.
I've been every flavor of crazy that you can imagine through all of it. Within the mental health care community there is an understanding that a caring and supportive partner is a major benefit in helping someone heal from the impacts of PTSD. I've not even come close. I've wanted to be good for him and I've done some serious reading and study, but the sad truth is that, when he starts making noises that sound like accusation and blame, I go nuts, take all of his anger on, and begin thinking of ways to "get away and get out." Sometimes I have literally run away -- I once made it halfway across Indiana, heading west and sobbing, before he managed to talk me into turning around. At other times, I've shut down and withdrawn emotionally -- or worse, come roaring back with my own anger and accusations. I went through a period of months when I was fascinated with the idea of cutting -- and I think that the only thing that kept me from acting on those urges was the inescapable association with adolescent angst. From time to time, I've even contemplated suicide -- seriously planning how to accomplish that without leaving too much of a "mess."
Thanks in large part to the steady presence and hard work of my therapist, I think I am past a lot of that -- at least past the most irretrievably destructive bits. She is slowly helping me to see what has been, what is, and what may be -- and "love my way" into it all without insisting that it be the way I want it to be. She doesn't use the word "ego" with me, but it keeps cropping up in the reading I am doing. I am coming to see the places where that internal sense of the me who controls and decides and defends and wants -- my ego, has been at work in so much of my life. It is becoming clear that it is time to find some different way to encounter life and the world. That ego thing hasn't worked so well to this point.
Finding the quote that appears at the top of this post was, for me, like getting smacked in the head with a stick. Homer Simpson would probably say, "Doh!"
I've been calling myself swan for a really long time now. I know it wasn't a name that I chose for myself, but I did take it on, use it, like it -- and increasingly see myself in that way. Silly goose! I'm not a swan. I'm not the ugly duckling personna that I took on in childhood either, but I never was a swan. I've felt terribly hurt and abandoned each time he's insisted that he is not (and maybe never really was) dominant -- but my reaction was about losing the bits of my own ego identity that were attached to that. If he isn't willing to be "my dominant," then I, by definition, am not submissive; not slave. Which sends my poor, little, scared ego-self into a tizzy of worry: "What or who, exactly, am I?"
Maybe goose girl. I found that Jean-Francois Millet painting, and I could feel my mind settle down. She's sweet and innocent and simple and sure. She's round -- a woman in a woman's body; comfortable with herself. She's dropped all the outside trappings, and is completely who she is as she dips her toes into the stream. She has real things to tend to; real work to do; but it does not burden her. She is alone and perfectly comfortable with that. She isn't frantic to be with someone, although I sense she'd be joyful with the presence of a companion. She is serene and aware and alive -- surfing along on the tides of her life. I like her very much.