Monday, March 31, 2014. I was talking on the telephone to a good friend last week when the word surreptitiously popped into my thoughts. I admit. I didn’t really know what it meant. Not specifically enough to know why it came to me in connection to how I feel – have always felt – when walking through ‘regular’ city housing neighborhoods.
I remember all the way back to how I felt at 18 shortly after I got out of Naval boot camp and into computer training school in San Diego. (Computers? What a horrible mismatch that field was for me!) I used to walk very late at night to and fro from Ocean Beach to the training center through such neighborhoods. What was always mirrored within me was a nearly devastating loneliness. “I don’t belong here. I’ve never fit in here. All those people. Secure in their solid cozy homes. Sharing their lives with each other, with their neighbors.”
Me? Having spent so many years of my abusive childhood living in a curved canvas Jamesway hut on the side of an Alaskan wilderness mountain. Fit in? Nowhere. I didn’t know what that feeling was then. I could only guess. I still have those same feelings walking down city sidewalks past ranch homes and ramblers and split-levels but I no longer have to guess why I have them. I no longer wonder what I long for.
1: done, made, or acquired by stealth : clandestine
2: acting or doing something clandestinely : stealthy <a surreptitious glance>
That’s me. Me living a clandestine secret life as a trauma-changed severe early abuse and neglect survivor among ‘the regulars’, the ones who create and own the civilization I reside within.
Walking – invisible to all – down any street at any time. An unknown entity. But what I am grateful for is that now after all these years I know why.
I mention this word as it appears to me again in connection to a pleasant and informative telephone conversation I had last night with my ex, Joe. We were talking about events that transpired in connection with the lives of his friends over 40 years ago. All his friends.
He was born and raised in this area. Of course he would have had a circle of old friends. He fit in. He was (seemed to me) most appreciated, valued, loved, respected and welcome. Me? Living surreptitiously undercover in stealth mode as Joe’s wife? I went along but I felt inadequate. An outsider. Painfully excluded and not through any fault of my husband or his friends.
I was telling Joe about my feelings back then at the same time I told him where they originated, how and why.
“STOP IT!” he said to me right in the middle of one of my sentences. “JUST STOP IT!”
I did what I have done as a surreptitious individual all of my adult life. I shut up. Instantly. As if a barrier wall stronger than any metal on earth slammed down with me on the inside and everyone else on the outside.
We went on talking. About other things. Things acceptable to Joe. Things familiar. Things comfortable. Tolerable.
Meanwhile shut-up-me within this wall pounded and SHOUTED, “Wait one minute! I have something to say! I have a right to say it.”
After about ten minutes I was able to allow myself to bring up the “STOP IT” to talk about it.
I learned something.
Joe is not alone in needing to keep the truth of early abuse and neglect survivors silent. If our truth is NOT heard it does not really exist. Not in ‘their’ world. My truth could not be tolerated my Joe now. I can take that fact all the way back in my thinking past 40 years to realize NO possible way could we have maintained a marriage because who I am, what I know, how I feel, what happened to me, how that affected me, changed me, affects me for my lifetime had to be kept on the surreptitious side of a world of comfort for others that I cannot LIVE IN.
Living a lie in silence to keep other people comfortable in their reality is so not my thing. That’s what I was forced to do during those long 18 years when my life was hell within hell. I was forced by the circumstances of my life to live that way, even being surreptitious to myself. Surreptitious came natural to me when I was married to Joe because I knew no other way to live.
I had no friends in my childhood. Never. I didn’t know what a friend even was except as I watched other people being friends within circles of friendship. In order to have a relationship – something I define by the honest sharing with caring within it – I HAVE to be fully me. Not that I have to ‘burden’ other people with any projection that they have to cure or heal me. But anyone I would call a friend today knows exactly who I am and is not afraid of me or of my reality.
I AM a person, not a shadow/wraith/ghost of an un-dimensional being. Skittering, tramping, lying on my belly desperately trying to move forward in my life. Always in hiding, hidden, living surreptitiously behind a phony front designed to keep my reality apart from the reality of nontraumatized people so they do not have to feel uncomfortable.
I appreciate the opportunity I has last night to see these kinds of patterns in actions. I tested what I saw by bringing the conversation back to the “STOP IT” point. Why did Joe say that? What was he saying?
I know. He doesn’t and probably never will. In his reality – he can’t. WHY this is so is really none of my business. Not anymore.
Survivors tolerated trauma because it was a MUST. We had no choice. We had to in order to live.
It is not surprising that most ‘regular’ people cannot tolerate ANY PART of our trauma reality. They don’t have to. Yes, that leaves us in one world and them in another one. Yes, that mostly leaves us alone and lonely. Yes, that gives them the advantage. They can set the social rules.
When they say STOP IT to us – they mean it. Past that point we cannot go with them nor can they go with us.
I feel a surprising and unfamiliar sense of freedom this morning as a result of the part of last night’s conversation I am describing here. I somehow dissolved a wall of “surreptitiousosity” last night. I pulled myself BACK from that part of my past, from those patterns that operated for so long within me in my life when I so desperately wanted to be a part of some social group without knowing how much I wanted that. I set myself free by accepting my feelings AND the feelings of Joe.
Back then, how desperately I wanted to be liked. I wanted to have value to other people. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted people to want me in their life. I wanted to mean something to someone. I wanted to MATTER to others as if mattering to them meant I could BE BORN into that other world – as if I could become one of them.
What a joke.
I see that now.
No fault of mine. No fault in others. This is “a no fault state.” But as long as other people will not tolerate our full being with all we have been through TRAUMA will not be healed. As I have said so many times on this blog the BIG traumas we survived did not belong to us. They belonged to the bigger society that let those traumas happen.
Society has to hear the lessons within trauma, LEARN from what they hear and then CHANGE conditions so those traumas STOP!! As it is, trauma and those who survive it are forced to live a surreptitious life – hidden invisibly in silence. And the traumas go on….
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2 thoughts on “+AN AWKWARD CONVEYANCE IN WORDS: surreptitiously”
Dear friend Linda!
I am so proud of you that you were able to bring up again, and directly address – who you are and what your reality was and IS – after being shut down by Joe’s inability to hear you…
I understand your deconstruction of ‘surreptitious’ perfectly. I too learned to keep my childhood confusion and lack of safety to myself, because I quickly understood that most people don’t want to hear it – it frightens them…and seeing that it is so disturbing to them just confirmed to me how little I could actually connect with others…
I realize that even now, after starting to work with a therapist I think I can grow to trust – to feel ‘safe enough’ with – I still fall back into an old, old habit of assuming (quite unconsciously) than I have to keep much of my reality to myself…because the ‘other’ doesn’t want to know it…can’t really understand it…etc.
Reading your description of your conversation with Joe highlights for me that I really NEED to bring up something very basic and fundamental about how I learned to experience myself as a child, to my therapist…
Perhaps I’ll write more about the specific belief that my life has mostly been organized around, later…
But for now, I just want to give you a big “YES!” for standing up for yourself last night!
Hi dear friend! Thanks for the affirmation and recongization of ME!!
I ALSO (to be fair, this is my Libra rising!) say that many people have inner pain that our stories trigger into resonating and as they tell us to shut up (basically) they are attempting to stop their own pain for rising to awareness.
I do get to see through these conversations that this man who could not hear me THEN cannot hear me NOW — that our marriage was as doomed as it was doomed!
Not only did our original traumas hurt us our continued silence hurts us. When we do have someone qualified to listen — then GO FOR IT!! Nothing can be lost but layers of trauma we NEED to get rid of in any way we can!!