When I was a kid, my most favorite book ever was “Masquerade” by Kit Williams. In this book, the reader is given riddles as to the whereabouts of a hidden treasure. Each clue is provided on a beautifully illustrated page that also contains a hidden rabbit. I remember being entranced as a kid, when my fifth grade teacher read the class the book and asked us where the bunny was each time she turned the page. I loved it so much that I did the same thing with my girls and “Goodnight Moon“, by asking them to locate the little mouse that was hidden on each page. As a kid, I didn’t care that solving the riddle would result in a treasure. To me, it was all about the bunnies.
Here I am, 30 years later, and it just so happens to be that it is still all about the bunnies for me. Before you think I am crazy and promoting a hard-to-find book, I am going somewhere with this. I went to my monthly therapy appointment today, happy as ever, and excited to tell my therapist about my trip to Mexico. During the course of my hour, she made several positive comments on how well I have taken control of my life and have opened myself up to enjoying new experiences. So I was a little surprised when she also said I should have another form of therapy, and that much of my negative internal dialogue (the root of my problems) were the result of past traumas. Not necessarily major traumas, but little things that happened to me as a kid that shaped who I became. She suggested I try going to EMDR Therapy. It is her belief that a brief round of this therapy could help shed light on the things in my life that have been pent up inside me and unconsciously coming out when similar stressors enter my life. Sounded interesting. So I returned to work and mentioned this to my friend Tina.
Tina is an awesome counselor. No, she isn’t a licensed counselor, but she has worked with so many counselors and knows so much about various therapies that I love running things by her and getting a better picture. Boy did she give me a better picture. The easiest way for me to explain it – EVERYTHING I react to now is the result of something that happened to me when I was a child. Sound like Freud there? Yep, but it made perfect sense. The therapy would bring up negative events and cause me to fully be cognizant of them. Of course, the negative side of this, is that it would also make me feel the full emotions of each event, which would ultimately heal that part of my brain instead of me unconsciously stressing or re-releasing my emotions in another fashion because of some unknown triggers. As we sat discussing the idea, and I wondered what emotions I supressed, several light bulbs came on in my head and I actually made several connections I really never knew existed. I am going to share a few things that happened to me as a child here. Let me start by saying, I really love my family, and I hope none of this is taken negatively. I am learning just how big of an influence parents (and others) are on their children’s lives. This blog is serving as my own kind of therapy, and maybe it might help someone else as well.
- My father had a brain aneurysm when I was 13. The doctors said he should have died. Thankfully, he didn’t, but he wasn’t the same person afterwards. While he spent months in the hospital, with my mom by his side, various family members would come stay at our house. During the major portion of this ordeal, I never showed emotion. I’m not sure why. But one day, I overheard my grandmother and aunt talking about me. It was mentioned that I must not care about my dad since I never cried about his situation. That’s not true. I cried. I cried only once. I cried to my best friend and two other friends from the neighborhood (her brother and our neighbor). The boys laughed at me. Crying was not ok. I have heard through various means over the past few years that I tend to close myself off from other people. In discussing these instances now, I see the connection. I learned to not trust people, even those close to me. I learned to bottle up my emotions and not share them. I learned not to let anyone see you cry.
- I made another ironic connection to my past. (It’s funny how the brain works that way.) I hate to clean. Simply hate it. I would pay someone to clean my house and actually have. I just remembered this morning that as a teen, I used to love cleaning. I loved spraying cleaners and wiping them up. Why? Who knows. But I did. One day, when my parents were away, I was cleaning the house for the joy of it. Yep, I said Joy. I went so far as to clean the windows. I was so happy to say, “Look what I did,” when they got home, but instead I received punishment. Apparently I had left streaks on the windows. My dad was a perfectionist – not because he was mean, but because he only knew what he was taught as a child himself and being the military sergeant he was. Unfortunately for me, we had the type of windows that could be removed. I spent the next several hours on the kitchen floor as he took each window out and I was forced to clean them with newspaper – an odd cleaning agent, but it works. I have hated cleaning ever since. It’s funny that even though I have told the window cleaning story many times before, I never made that connection to my loathing of cleaning.
- An even more obscure connection – phone calls. One recurring argument my husband and I always had earlier in our marriage was the fact that when he was running late or going out after work with his friends, he wouldn’t call me. I’m mostly over that. I say mostly, because now that I know there may be a childhood connection to it, it’s possible I am not over it completely, yet. Tina asked me a key question, how did my family value phone calls when I was a kid? Well, let me tell you….if I were running later than my curfew, all hell broke loose. So if there were any chance in hell that I was going to be late, I had better call home. I wore a locket that is the size of a quarter, and I always had a quarter in it in case I had to use a pay phone (yes, it was before the days of cell phones). So there it is; obscure, but makes sense. The importance of that phone call was ingrained in my head.
- For the final connection I am going to share, first I have to tell you something that happened this week. At work, I walk through a little courtyard every day where I see a few little bunnies. I enjoy coming to work and saying good morning to “my” precious bunnies. Tuesday of this week I came into work my usual route and noticed something out of place. There was a piece of trash or something on the lawn. Upon taking a closer look, it was one of the bunnies. Mangled. The grass was recently cut, and I saw the maintenance man across the courtyard talking to someone. He had a lawnmower. I was instantly angry. He killed my bunny. Intentionally? I don’t know. But it made me want to cry. I had to fight back saying something to him as I walked past. Over the next couple days, I noticed the bunny was still there. I guess he didn’t even know he killed the poor thing, because he didn’t even notice it’s carcass. Sickening. I vented to my boss about it. All I could do was hope the poor thing was already dead from something else before it met up with the lawnmower. I almost blogged about it then, but I couldn’t. As I continued complaining about it to Tina, once again, the memories of my childhood came back into conversation. When I was a child, we owned 72 rabbits. At about age 8, I watched my dad and his friends slaughter every one of them. No it wasn’t out of cruelty. They were simply to put food on the table. I know now that my parents didn’t have a lot of money. This was a means of feeding us. I walked away from the gruesome sight, occassionally spoke about it, but never showed emotion about it. Tina posed the hard question to me again, Why didn’t I show emotion? How did my family view emotional outbursts? One thought popped in my head. My dad used to always say to me, “Stop your crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about.” Perhaps this is why I didn’t cry about the bunnies. Perhaps this is why I didn’t cry during my dad’s aneurysm. But then bunnies came back into my life as indicated in my blog, “Hard Lessons – A Bunny Tale“, and this current incident described here.
So I learned today that the hidden bunnies of my past are the keys to me finding the treasure of my happiness. First I have to solve my own Masquerade, and give this therapy a try.