Today is a beautiful day in Los Angeles- it is sunny and warm and lovely outside. When we have a sunny day during winter in L.A., it feels like spring because the flowers are always blooming and the ground isn't soggy and dead. The weather here really lifts my mood. Apparently the cloud cover in Seattle can make some people claustrophobic, like a friend of mine who moved here from Seattle and probably me. It is open and bright here, not oppressive, although the smog is not good for the lungs. Even though I've only been here since last May, it feels like home. It's certainly not perfect here, but I'm happy to be an L.A. woman. I admire the women here. More than other places I've been, the women here know what they want and aren't afraid to show it.
Speaking of women I admire, I went to a taping of Washington Week with Gwen Ifill yesterday. It was interesting to get a glimpse of how television works, although it went much quicker than I've heard sitcoms do because they film the show in one take. I have never been in the presence of so many Gwen Ifill loving PBS geeks in my life. It was thrilling. Gwen has amazing presence. She exudes the confidence of someone totally comfortable with themselves, without arrogance, defensiveness, or insecurity. She has the kind of confidence that enhances her beauty and intelligence, and draws respect and affection from the show's audience and panelists. From the time she walked on stage the focus was on her, and she seemed to love the audience right back. When she had to walk backstage she would say, "I'll be right back. I'm not leaving you!" The tickets were free, although we were up in the balcony. She waved at those of us in the balcony several times, though, much to my delight.
The way she carries herself and treats people is a perfect representation of why I love PBS so much. My ethics are based on Sesame Street- appreciation for the value of diversity, listening, learning, engagement with the world, humor (in a geeky PBS kind of way), fun, and innocence. PBS is all about the believe that people should treat each other with respect and kindness, without being in denial about how the world often doesn't live up to that ideal. I think that what you see on PBS is more real and less fantasy than you would see on most other networks, and there is true outrage about the corruption and lies in our world. Even Gwen has been the target of at least one unfair and mean-spirited attack, but of course she handled it with class.
This morning, I went to Marina del Rey to see my therapist. My ritual is to go to Starbucks before therapy, and then walk the couple of blocks to the office. I enjoy the air in Marina del Rey, and the walk to and from the therapist’s office is one of the rare times I walk since moving here. I like to think and walk; it’s my meditation. My therapist has been telling me for a while that I am too hard on myself, and when I talk about my family I realize it’s true. One of my struggles with PTSD is that I feel like my memories are blocked out by trauma, trauma that is remembered not as memories but flashes of emotions like fear, shock, and self-reproach. It’s hard, in my mind, to get past the bad feelings to what actually happened. When I think of my past, it’s more like flashbacks than memories, and flashbacks are painful and difficult. I avoid thinking about my past, and that causes me to lose connection with myself. Today I talked about my brother's suicide, which had a profound effect on how I think about myself and is still a source of frustration and guilt. My memories of my life before the suicide and what lead up to Jeff's death are usually blocked by agonizing questions and challenges to myself-"How could I have let this happen?" "I should have had more time with him." "If I would have talked to him differently, maybe he would have opened up to me more." "I wish he would have come to stay with me instead of our dad; things would have been different." "What could I have done to make this turn out differently?"
They are unanswerable questions, and they perpetuate a sense of blame at myself. When I get past those stabbing questions and actually talk about what I was doing and how I was feeling before Jeff's suicide and my relationship with him, or write about it, my impression of what happened is very different. Then I remember that Jeff and I were very close, we talked and visited each other often, we understood each other, and we were very protective of each other. We shared jokes and special ways of acting and talking with each other. Our relationship was especially precious because we didn’t get that kind of unconditional love and support from our narcissistic dad and preoccupied mom. In the last year of his life, I knew he was struggling with depression, and I talked to him about it, spent time with him, and let him know I was there for him. I wasn’t uncaring or uninvolved. I don’t really have anything to feel guilty about, but my frustration about the situation and how it turned out has driven my thinking, and that is when this cycle of dating narcissistic, demanding, disrespectful men began. I totally avoided guys like my dad before that.
So there you go. The short version of why I have such problems with relationships is that when my brother killed himself, I blamed myself for not being able to save him, and lost sight of who I was along with my main source of emotional support. That left me open to men who seem supportive and caring in the beginning, but turn out to be insincere, and so insecure that they built themselves up by cutting other people down. I’m used to this kind of behavior and more accepting of it because of my dad, and I let people unfairly criticize and manipulate me because I’m disconnected with who I really am. I had been strong in defining myself, but I rejected who I was in my anger and grief, and my desire to make up for my “failure” to save my brother lead me to try to “save” other people to repair my self-esteem. That pretty much sums it up. I’ve gone the opposite way with friends, though, and developed much closer, rewarding, and stable friendships than I tended to have in the past. I do have support, and it is a blessing to be self-aware. The one person I can save is me, and I still believe in the PBS ideals of respect and tolerance and people who follow them.