Improvising with what you have

I don’t have a swift yet, so last night, I improvised with what I have: chairs.

I kept having to stand up to unwind, but honestly that was all the exercise I got all weekend, so I’ll mark the repeatedly-standing-up as a plus, too.

Another plus: I had to really pay attention to the yarn. Run my fingers through it far more carefully, to unwind things, notice when the tension was too slack, adjust the chairs, wrap more slowly or more quickly depending on the circumstance. I could feel all the bumps and knobs and smooth them away beforehand, and to understand the weight and feel of what I would be working with far more than I would have done just quickly wrapping up a ball with a swift, my eyes on the TV.

Although it’s difficult at times, I try to be this way about my PTSD treatment — appreciating that improvisation can sometimes lead to better outcomes, or at least interesting ones.

Here’s what I don’t have:

  • The stable base of a fully functional childhood home.
  • A low ACE score.
  • Support from my parents (one is dead; one is not safe).
  • A dependable body and brain.
  • Any sense of self esteem (I’m working on it but so far no dice).

Here’s what I have:

  • Unbounded love for my children.
  • Memories of intense and also unbounded love from my father, imperfect as he was.
  • A supportive and deeply emotionally intelligent partner.
  • Loving support from two of my sisters.
  • Occasional bodily vigor.
  • A high resiliency score.
  • A wonderful therapist.
  • EMDR.
  • A bicycle, and a town with great bike paths.
  • Astoundingly kind and generous friends who, it seems, would do nearly anything for me.
  • The sweetest, softest kitty in the universe.
  • Knitting.

There really are some advantages to trying to become an adult with what I have at my disposal: I’ve looked far more closely at my life than I would have had I come from a more stable home, which means my motivations, character, and relationships are far more carefully tended. I still screw up OH MY GOODNESS DO I, especially with relationships, but I have at least had the opportunity to be more reflective based on necessity.

I’ve also figured out what I don’t want, and I’ve had a chance to really look at what I want to take from my family of origin and what I don’t. And I’ve worked very very hard to achieve this.

What I want from my family of origin:

  • Utter weirdness, which we had in great, heaping shovelfuls.
  • Intellectualism. Not being afraid to be smart, and to learn new things with enormous voracity.
  • Sisterhood.
  • Good food: healthy, delicious, grounded in our heritage.
  • Music.
  • Dance.

What I don’t want from my family of origin:

  • Insufferable academic snobbery.
  • Being horribly judgmental.
  • Alcoholism.
  • Abuse.
  • Dying young out of the damn blue, which my dad did (I’ve had my heart checked six ways from Sunday).
  • Poverty.
  • Violence.

Because it was so clear that I needed to examine all of my notions, especially the violence part (what got me the PTSD diagnosis and started me in EMDR was hitting my kid — which is full stop just not acceptable, and if you want to stop reading this blog because of that be my guest and I don’t blame you), I examined ALL of them — not just the obvious ones.

So many people, myself included before I understood the dysfunction, unthinkingly repeat family traits that might not be poisonous but sure are unpleasant. And I have the chance to run my fingers through every strand, determining which bits to continue with and which not to include in the fabric of my self.

That is a strange and backwards gift from a dysfunctional childhood, but a gift nonetheless.