Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Hole In Me

Be warned. This is a personal, self-psychologizing essay. Yesterday in a discussion about saving money and our budget, we segued into talking about the hole in me that I’m trying to fill with food and with buying things. I eat to ease my pain – literally and figuratively. When I hurt I eat and my pain is less. When I am upset, I eat, I calm down. When I have been through or in the process of going through something very stressful, I wind down with shopping. When I lived among good thrift shops, I spent hours there – until my feet and legs hurt, trying to distance myself from whatever was stressing me. And, it worked.

So, I know that there is a hole, and that it can be temporarily filled with food, clothes, bright colored junk, towels, etc. But, the hole consumes everything I put in and is still there.

Most spiritually astute people suggest that God could/should fill that hole. Well, I’ve been working with God for some 25 years, and the hole is still there. Fortunately, the hole has not consumed God for me; nonetheless, I keep trying to fill that hole with something.

Scientists have long known that black holes consume all matter that comes near them. But, until they began analyzing the holes, figuring out what they were, they had no idea why. So, yesterday, we began working on what the hole is in me that I keep trying to fill with food and shopping.

And, I think we’ve hit on something. (I will add here, tongue in cheek, that it’s easy to blame the dead because they can’t defend themselves, and everyone I mention here is dead.) When I was born, Mom said, I was a beautiful child and most wanted. I was loved and cherished beyond imagining, she said. But, some of my first memories are of having to sit and listen to my Dad preach/rant while he was drunk so that Mom could get things done. Inconsistency. If I am beloved child, why is Mom letting Dad abuse me verbally and emotionally? The words they spoke didn’t match their actions. I think that was the beginning of the holed.

Then, Dad went back into the Navy (had served in WW2), and our family consisted of Mom, David (my brother, 6 years older than me), and me. Suddenly all efforts were focused on David; he became the man of the house at age 13. He got to drive the tractor – never mind that it was devilishly hard work. And, he got to drive to school even though he didn’t even have a driver’s license when I had to ride the school bus. Mom and David had jokes that they didn’t share with me. If I was the beloved daughter, why was I left out? Where did I fit in the family relationship.

I was often sent to my grandmother’s, just down the road, to stay until Mom got off work. My grandmother had a hard life. My Mom had loved and discarded my Dad, the oldest son, several times before they finally married. So, my grandmother was not fond of her. And, she let me know every thing that Mom did of which she did not approve. But, I was her beloved granddaughter. Yet, I was subjected to vitriol about the Mom I loved.

We lived out in the country and did not have much contact with the social groups in town – unlike the times when Mom was growing up in an even smaller town where she was a star, a beauty and the “leader of the pack”. I had few friends and no one with whom to play. We were poor, and Mom did not want the rest of the world to know that we were poor; so we skimped on food to have me wear pretty dresses (that I hated) and be in beauty contests (which I hated even more) and be an attendant to my aunt’s Eastern Star installations (which were very uncomfortable since I knew only my aunt). Appearances were everything. Who we really were was hidden; we were ashamed of our poverty, ashamed of my Dad (the town drunk), we were ashamed of the fact that my Mom worked. But, we had to dress as well and act perfectly; so that no one would think we were poor white trash. If I was the beloved child, the smartest one in the class, then why did we have to do such uncomfortable things? Why wasn’t I good enough already?

When my brother died, Mom had no choice but to transfer the responsibility of making choices from him to me. She was incapable of making choices; she wanted someone else to choose so she wouldn’t have to blame herself. (We talked about this near the end of her life, and she pinpointed this trait.) Some choices I made were good, but something was always wrong. She was seriously ill; so I rented an apartment near the college I was attending and used the bit of inheritance from my brother to pay the rent. I got a job. Mom was getting well. Then she found a job which she held for 35 years. But, my choice of a place to live was wrong; so she moved us into the projects to save money. I gave up my job and began drinking.

The hole kept growing, and I had no way of filling it. As I grew into my 20s, I tried to fill the hole with sex. Thank God I could not have children or the tragedy would have grown. My behavior only made the hole grow bigger because people (Mom, aunt, grandmother, friends, etc.) would tell me what a wonderful person I was and then attack my lifestyle and career choices.

Until I was 50 years old, that hole kept growing. A friend named Bill and a good therapist stopped the growth of the hole. Because it was not consuming me any longer, I thought it had gone; I ignored it.

Now, I know that I still have this hole, this gap between what is said and what happens in the past, present and future. I project ways in which this hole is never filled. And, this scares me. I love my partner, and I want my words and my actions to be consistent with that love. But, I need to make the gaping hole inside me smaller in order to maintain that consistency. To do that, I need to more understanding, maybe have some ritual cleansing, maybe writing more essays, certainly awareness of times when the hole gobbles up not only food and shopping but also my love.

I need my therapist to help me do this. I need my partner as an ally. I need God to be with me. And, as I pray for my friends, I need their prayers, their love, and their guidance. Together we can make the hole in me, and the hole in others, smaller and smaller. I think that real love and real peace are connected here.


PseudoPiskie said...

Here you have prayers ascending and ears activated. You know how to contact me and you know I answer email. I also answer the phone and am willing to listen.

Peace will come.

June Butler said...

Share Cropper, you have my prayers, too. As you already know, we share much in the histories of our past lives. I empathize with you, my friend. I know a little bit about how you feel.

I have the hole, too. Writing on my wee blog helps fill the hole in a non-destructive (I hope) way.

I don't want to discourage you or seem unhelpful, but the hole will very likely never completely close. But it can be a good thing, a call to creativity. I pray you can find good ways to fill the hole. To me, that's the key.

Already, you know that food and shopping are not the answer. Just knowing that is a big leap forward.
I do believe that you're on your way to healing.

Suzer said...

I am so familiar with trying to fill that hole. Thank you for sharing this.

Min O'Pause said...

Gosh, you could easily be me and vice versa. What a deep felt post. We are all, I believe, trying to fill up that 'hole' inside each one of us. You have my prayers and support, no doubt.


Cecilia said...

Share Cropper, I read this two days ago and have started and stopped responding a couple of times.

First, I want to thank you for your searing honesty. This is such difficult terrain. For all my blogging on my closeted sexuality, you have touched on things in this post that I don't dare begin to share in my blog because I am so overwhelmed by them (filling the hole).

Second, I want to say what I have just alluded to... like the others who have responded, I connect with your story in several ways. The hole, some of the means of filling it, the parents who loved me like crazy but were only capable of crazy love...

Third: Prayers, from me as from others, that you will be surrounded palpably with the love of God, and that it will shrink the feeling of the hole in you. Prayer fills the hole for me... which is scary, and robs me of opportunities to act on my addictions, so I don't pray! not as often as I should, at any rate.

Thank you. Blessings and peace, friend.

Pax, C.

klady said...

I, too, have kept this for couple days. I've tried to sort through my own connections, put them aside, and find a way to simply express my thanks and my prayers. But it’s hard. I hear my own words, said time and time again, to my children, “Your father loves you ... even though" he doesn't do x, y, z, doesn't show any interest in your lives, doesn't even want to talk to you on the phone for more than a few minutes or at all if it's disrupting his t.v. program, his meal, etc. While we learned shortly after his death that some of his behavior may well have been attributable to brain damage (caused by chemotherapy, radiation, years of drinking, or who knows what) that may have affected his attention span or short-term memory, we also knew he had life-long habits of taking care of his needs first (from the time when he was focused on getting the next drink and later, during "recovery," keeping himself happy and distracted so he wouldn't look for one).

Whatever the “real” truth was, their experience was probably much like yours, and to some extent, still is when they meet with their father’s family and do their usual dance of pretending that nothing was ever “wrong” with their father or their lives. We all experience some kind of disconnect between reality and what people tell us, especially in childhood. But your deep and honest reflections remind us on the outside that holes are often deeper and wider than we think, in ourselves and others, and that simply filling them up with whatever comes along does not necessarily change the way our insides are landscaped.

Anyway, thank you for clear, honest reflections. Now run with the wind and the water on that jet ski!

Nina said...

I agree with Grandmere Mimi that the hole never closes. I try to stay aware of it so I know what is driving me, and to choose the actions I take to comfort myself wisely.

The operative word here is "try," and I often fail; but having spent a long time trying to cap that chasm like a well, I choose to notice where it is and work on being more conscious of what I do. That includes prayer.

Let's pray for each other, and keep healing. Healing may never be perfect, but it's worth working for.

Janis Bland said...

Wow. Simply ... wow. What a poignant testimony. I will also hold you in prayer. I think you're sharing this on your blog goes some way to filling that hole.

God bless you.

Cynthia said...

I think the hole can also be a tunnel, a wormhole, that can connect us with something bigger than ourselves. It depends on our perspective. At first, that hole is a gaping wound and it needs acknowledgment and care and healing. For myself, that hole at times has been a portal to creativity, compassion, heightened awareness, insight. It's not easy not to fill it but when we can find the strength to bear the emptiness in the company of those who love us, there are gifts to be had.

Thank you for this post and for your courage to share it.

Missy said...

I have no words--really.

For what it's worth, I think you're about as self aware as you can be and that this is your best strength in managing the old wounds.

I see many parallels in my life right now. All the little things I try to do to be happy; writing, taking pictures, conversation, swimming, activities with my kids, even eating--it's all a veil to try to hide and forget what's really wrong.

My prayers are with you my friend.

hope said...


Your writing is beautiful and vulnerable. Thank you for sharing this. I'd like to point you to Jesus' words in beginning his ministry. He quoted from Isaiah. Is 61:1 ... He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, ...

A hole suggests absence, but I think the idea that Christ himself is all that's needed to fill the hole is a rather misguided idea, albeit common and nice-sounding. He came to 'bind-up' which seems maybe just the opposite of the extrication of unfortunate experience. Perhaps to be healed and whole we need Christ to bind up our broken pieces and be something more like glue than filler in the metaphorical sense.

Peace and Love,