Restoration: Hard

Let's just pretend I've had more blog posts than menstrual cycles in 2016, and jump right in.

I've written about what a transformative experience it was for me to learn how messed up I am, to not shy away from that or downplay it. (In my opinion, it's actually one of my best posts ever, even if I refused to capitalize letters back then).  Learning to identify the events from my childhood that hurt me, and to recognize the pain they caused and still cause has been the most eye-opening experience of my life.  

This isn't one of those, "oh my gosh I need to click through to read about what dramatic event Keight's referring to that messed her up" situations. Because SPOILER ALERT: nothing grabby or terrible happened in my childhood.  No one from the Lifetime Network is calling asking for my story rights. 

But you know what? I was a human kid raised by and around other humans, and that alone GUARANTEES that I experienced painful stuff. Stuff that my kid/tween/teen brain didn't know how to deal with in a healthy way, so I just coped or numbed or distracted or [ir]rationalized my way through it. These instincts that we have for when we're confronted with pain are great because they help us survive, to get through the pain and keep living. 

But as you may know, I am interested in more than surviving (cause, you know, like, it's the tagline to the blog, right? WHATEVER, YALL).

And wouldn't it be great if once we survived long enough to grow into our adult brains we just automatically started doing things in a healthy, rational way? I mean now that we have the vocabulary and reasoning enough to understand things a little better, shouldn't we have our junk together?


Because, surprise! While my sweet little kid brain was busy coping around a painful moment, it was also setting up habits and thought patterns and making some bizarre kid-conclusions about the world (hang around with Layla for a day if you wanna experience some hilarious and "WTF" 5 year old logic). And as the ever-popular factoid says: 90% of your personality and thought patterns are fully formed by first grade. It's kind of insane when you imagine your five or six year old self being at the wheel of the decisions and relationships that you are dealing with today.

Because 5 year old Keight? Well, she had an imaginary friend named Tennis. And he was a tiny, hairy, adult man who lived in her throat. I'm not sure I want the same brain that birthed Tennis the Throat-Dweller navigating me through the grown up world of emotions and conflict and life (however, I do want to hang out with that brain's owner, because she sounds like a trippy little riot).

Tennis is in there. And those bareback shortalls are the dope freshness.

Here is a basic example from my life. When I was maybe 6 or 7, I was playing with a kitten at my cousins' house. This was the first kitten I remember ever meeting, and it was a pure wonder. As far as I was concerned, it was a stuffed animal come to life, and I treated it with my signature 6 year old gentleness (re: unintentional and clueless brutality). Well, duh, I grabbed it too hard and the cat scratched the mess out of me. I vividly remember the shock as I pulled my arm back and felt those bright red streaks of fire. I didn't even know something so sharp existed in the explored universe, much less did I expect to encounter it on this tiny fuzzball. 

Immediately in my head a switch was made from "cats are all adorable and sweet and exist to delight me" to "they are all scary and mean and will hurt me." Well, neither of those assumptions was actually true, but my kid brain swapped one for the other without skipping a beat.

When Jesse and I were newly married we found two kittens in the woods at a friend's house. We took them home so they wouldn't die, and I started looking for someone to give them to.  They were so cute, but I didn't get attached and kept saying, "we can't keep them because I HATE cats." Even when I would be cuddling them to bits, I would still assert "but I hate cats."  After a few days I was like, "huh, wait a second, what I am believing to be true and what is actually true aren't lining up." It was this strangely dramatic moment at age 24 to have the epiphany, "OMG I THINK I LIKE CATS!" 

It's not always as easy as "X  happened in my childhood and it was painful, and that is why I am still doing Y today."  It may never be so cut and dry, but that type of cause and effect is happening a ton during childhood as we learn the world and make conclusions about it. And the effects are going to keep playing out until our adult selves step in and change the pattern.

I had filed away "Cats = Bad" in my kid brain, and the case was closed. I wonder how many very lovely, sweet cats I ignored or ran away from through the years based on my faulty thinking.  And it even took my adult brain a few days of discomfort and full exposure therapy--having those little fluffy puffs clamber around all over me--before I even got the message of "WAIT A TICK! I think I DO like these things!"

I couldn't find a pic of me with a cat (for obvious reasons), but here is me in a cabbage patch kids swimsuit and my chumbo baby brother that HAS to be worth something.

It's a silly example, but it's helped me realize how powerful this stuff is, and how totally unhealthy and unfounded patterns can get passed down for generations if we don't intervene with new thinking.

But, if it was that tricky to realize I was operating on an incorrect assumption about freaking kittens because of one physically painful moment from childhood, how much harder and more painful is it to explore this stuff when the pain/lie/thought is about something closer to home, that played out over years in my heart? 

It's a buttload harder. And it feels like digging around with a red-hot poker in an infected sore. One that you had managed to contain to barely a throb when you had it all wrapped up. The vast majority of the time we choose the quiet and constant throb of lingering infection over the intense and temporarily more painful process of cleaning out the junk and truly healing.

I had no emotional investment in the feline race. The pain that one kitten caused me didn't have any attachment to my worth or identity. And yet it still took me 20 years to reevaluate the information and move forward under more correct thinking.

When I start coming up against and exploring events and patterns that tie in with my identity, my self-worth, body image; when it's issues like acceptance, intimacy, shame, fear, rejection, and abuse, my little kid brain tells me to run kicking and screaming away because it hurts and it's hard. To move past this stuff and process it in a healthy manner means letting myself truly feel the weight of what really happened, to look directly at what was lost and grieve it.

Choosing grief when it isn't absolutely required sounds insane. Grief is something we think of as forced upon us by the most dramatic circumstances of life. Circumstances that none of us wish for.  But if you get to a place like I did and you just feel stuck--in a dysfunctional marriage pattern, in unhealthy parenting, in crumbling or shallow relationships, in feeling like you're just passing through life, in your growth with Jesus; unprocessed pain could very well be why. It definitely was for me.

It's hard for me to look at the little girl in these pictures and know that she was the one that got hurt by the world and by people in it. But I would never tell her to suck it up or get over it. I would want her to be comforted and heard and healed. I have to remind myself that Jesus wants that and more for me: even the grouchy, wrinkly, not-as-cute-or-loveable 33 year old version of me today. I'm still her, and she needs someone to fight for her.

Consider this your once-every-5-years reminder from me: You're messed up and have been hurt, and dealing with it could really change your life for the better. But it will be hard and it will hurt. I'm not telling you what to do, but you should totally talk to someone with training about this stuff.

"Ugh, pain? Do I have to?" Yes, tiny Keight. You have to, for the new generation of tinies. Now eat your apple jack necklace and appreciate how exquisite 1988 is.

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