I’m sort of a change addict. I rearrange things all the time. From the files in my office to the paints in my studio to the furniture in the rooms to the items on my bedside table, I am always looking for another way to place things. And I often like to pretend that it is for increased efficiency—and sometimes it accidentally brings about increased efficiency—but I think it is just that things need to be constantly in flux for me to feel comfortable.
This is actually the opposite of what makes most people comfortable. Stability and stasis and knowing that you won’t bang your toes on a credenza that wasn’t there yesterday seem to be more comfortable for most.
I used to attribute my desire for change to boredom. I just figured I was the kind of person who needed new scenery … and that is true in part. Highly intelligent and creative people often need movement and change, and lots of us live in mess or chaos as a result. We feel life more than just live it. And, like anything that you see or feel each and every day, you become numb to things if they stay the same for too long.
Once my daughter’s teacher thought she would place a brightly colored sticky note to my daughter’s desk to remind her of something. That sticky note had an effect for about a week and a half. After that time, the note just became a part of my daughter’s normal desk environment. It no longer screamed brightly to remember, but it sort of faded into the everyday.
For those of us who feel our way through life, everything fades into the everyday, and we need something new in order to feel stimulated and excited and motivated.
I am one of those people, so boredom is an apt way to describe much of my need for change.
But, over time, I discovered something else about the way I desire change. It felt like an escape. It felt like freedom. It felt like a release from captivity. And it still does.
I often describe my situation as “stuck”. I can’t afford to move. I can’t find decent housing with a voucher that is meant to safeguard the poor from not finding decent housing (another tale for another time, perhaps). I can’t leave the state without throwing my disability case out the window after 16 months of fighting for my rights. I can’t change the ways my body and mind react to particular stimuli. I can’t end the pain that plagues my whole body. I can’t stop seeing the doctors and therapists who already know and have seen the ways my disease affects me. I can’t end the awareness of the past events that led to this point. I feel trapped within my disability and within a particular way of living as a result.
And I want to escape once more.
I keep changing what I can. The furniture, the nightstand contents, the filing system all move around. But I’m still feeling stuck.
Last night, while I was attempting to catch up on the washing of dishes (a failed attempt, but a bit of progress at least), I was thinking about my relationship with my mom. It wasn’t great, for most of my teen and adult years. We didn’t understand one another very well, and communicating emotion wasn’t a strong point for her, and obeying without question wasn’t a strong point of mine. We argued as a result. But last night I was thinking more about how she must have felt when all I wanted to do was escape, and even though I don’t really think my mom floats around my kitchen in some non-corporeal form, I said aloud, “I’m sorry if it hurt you Mom, but I needed to try … I needed to try to be free.”
I hadn’t thought of what I did from age 18 to 28 as trying to be free before, at least not in any real and deep sense. But I was trying to be free. I didn’t want to be captive or kept. And running from place to place and moving from man to man and snorting line after line felt like flying after years of living caged. It wasn’t a crazy person living out her crazy. It wasn’t a woman lost seeking a place to fit in. It was freedom–finally freedom! And all of those things in all of that time didn’t necessarily serve me well or bring me wholeness and good, but they weren’t necessarily meant to do that anyway. They were just meant to be the opposite of captivity.
When my little dog gets free of the tethers that hold him, he runs like a motherfucking bat out of hell. He doesn’t know where he is going, or why. He doesn’t care. He just runs, and runs, and runs, and runs. And there isn’t any catching him. You have to run past him (which, by the way, sucks for a good runner, so the few times I have had to do so I nearly died as a result) and then convince him that running in the other direction sounds fun, leading him back toward the house or car from which he escaped. Freedom. Flying. Just going because you are finally allowed to go.
I spent 10 years of my life flying in glorious freedom.
And then, I went back to living as others expected or anticipated I would or should. Because you can only run so far before you tire and need to turn around. But I still miss the flying. I still miss that freedom.
There are all sorts of expectations once more, and there is a lot of weight to the conditions of disability and poverty that I am struggling to carry, and there are rules and rules and rules about how you may or may not be when you are dependent on others (and very few of the rules or expectations are reasonable or intuitive or helpful). And I start to feel trapped and stuck and without an exit plan. It reminds me of being a child, and not being able to express that really bad shit was going on in my life, and not being old enough or aware enough to leave the situation to which I felt captive. All the ways I tried to escape that captivity—throwing tantrums, threatening my abuser, trying to run away, becoming despondent, sleep walking, wetting the bed—went unrecognized or were blamed on other causes.
I don’t fault the people in my life who didn’t know those were attempts at escape. It isn’t easy to understand when you haven’t been informed or educated about such things. All you see is a bunch of crazy and inconvenient and inappropriate, and you don’t know how to fix it. And even when I did get the attention of therapists or doctors, they were kinda shitty therapists or doctors, and they did more harm than good in most cases. I wasn’t properly diagnosed with C-PTSD until a year and a half ago, because I had a breakdown/freak out/panic in the right place and the right time, for a change.
The thing about this desire for freedom, however, is that it starts to morph into something new as I age and become more aware. I still want to run away, but I want to run to a place that brings stability, a therapeutic environment, and release from the debt and dependence of poverty. Being free looks more like stasis and stability than I like to admit at times. And I think that I would still rearrange the furniture and the files and the art supplies and the books in this more stable version of freedom, but I don’t think that it would make me feel stuck or captive or without freedoms. If I had a little house on the beach, just big enough for me and the dog, and the occasional visit from my dad or my daughter, and if I could swim every day and get a massage and take a walk along the water, and if I could write and create and sell my work, and if I could grow a few plants out in my tiny garden instead of on an apartment window sill, and if I could choose the life I want and not be forced into situations that I don’t want, I could feel free in one place, and not ever need to feel the need to flee or fight or struggle toward something else.
I started with a title that implied that things don’t change. And many things don’t. But many things do. And it isn’t true that the more things change they more they stay the same, even if my freedom becomes a little cottage which I own and can settle into for years to come. Because, while that seems like stasis, it is much different from anything I have experienced in all my years—it is something I choose, without influence and expectation and abuse and appropriate cultural expression and manipulation and guilt and force making me choose (which isn’t really choice at all).
Much has changed inside of me, and in the way I see myself, and in the ways I understand my history and my illness, and in the ways that I act and react because of new awareness, and in the way I treat myself as a result. But much has not changed.
I still long to be free.
I still want to fly.