How to Reclaim Yourself

Reclamation

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“People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed.”
― Audrey Hepburn

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Sometimes I think there’s an order to this chaos…

Sometimes I think there isn’t.

Catch me on a day when I think there is and I can probably make you feel good about all the bad which has happened and is happening in life. I can take your crazy and make it less crazy, depending on the story I can make the insane seem in sane.

A skill which I learned fairly early on in life was make sense out of nonsense. Bring order to chaos. I was required to make excuses for the mistakes, failings, lies, delusions… the crazy of others… on a regular basis.

Making excuses involves explaining something from a different perspective, seeing the positive potential held within an apparent negative. I got very good at doing this, so good at doing it that I lost myself, lost my perspective on being anything or anyone other than something or someone designed to serve others when they needed my services.

It’s a long and sometimes very boring story which I’ve told many times from a variety of angles.

Another thing I learned a little bit later than fairly early on in life is that one skill leads to another or the need to learn another to make up for the shortcomings and consequences of the previous skill.

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“We are told ‘no’, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral. ‘Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.’ And then you’re a player, you don’t want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.”
― Terence McKenna

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Catch me on a day when I don’t think there is an order to chaos and you’ll most likely wish you hadn’t caught me on that day. What is wrong with me, why am I not being the person you thought I was. Have I deceived you or have you deceived yourself about me… chaos may ensue.

I usually try to avoid people on days when I don’t feel like making sense out of nonsense, when I don’t have the energy to find the positive in the negative, when I feel crazier than all the crazy I’ve met and made seem less crazy, when I don’t care if chaos has an order or not, when I have no excuses to give someone who wants them for whatever they want them for… I do have explanations but they are not ones you’ll want to hear.

Strangely enough it’s on those days when I reclaim myself.

Why is it strange?

Because most often when I’m at my least lost is when others think I’m at my most lost…

They see things from their perspective rather than mine (as we all tend to do with others) and they may believe that I am lost to them (which I am on those days as I’m focusing my attention on myself and not on them – I’m not in service), or they may judge me based on themselves (a skill which may yield accuracy or may not… depending on factors which may or may not get factored in, and parameters used, such as personal bias, and faulty logic postulated on imperfect data collection*).

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Faulty logic

dialogue from Luther

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When you learn a new skill it can be awesome in all meanings of the word.

First it requires of you that you take a terrifying leap into admitting the unknown exists – that you don’t know something, don’t know how to do something, and that scares you.

Even though you may be skilled up the wazoo on all sorts of matters, life always finds a way of throwing something at you for which you lack the required ability and knowledge… you’re back to square one – a baby faced with learning how to walk and talk.

There’s this thing in front of you, call it a challenge, that you have no idea how to handle because you’ve never needed to learn how to deal with it before. Now you do. And somehow everything you have dealt with before is useless when faced with this, the skills and knowledge which you are certain of having may even be making things harder.

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“While we cannot live without history, we need not live within it either.”
― Amartya Sen

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Perhaps you look around you for someone to handle this thing for you.

Maybe you find someone who says they can do it… at a price. You’re going to owe them, but you don’t mind about the price (unless it’s too much and then you do mind very much for many reasons – if you can’t pay it then you’ll have to find someone else to do this thing for you, or you may have to learn how to do this thing yourself… but you don’t want to do it yourself because that terrifies you), you’re just relieved that someone says they know how to fix your problem for you. You can hand the challenge over to them and they’ll meet it for you, sort it out and then hand the result and ensuing rewards over to you.

But people say a lot of things… and they don’t always mean what they say, or they mean it but they can’t actually do what they think and say they can do. Yet you won’t know that they can’t do it and don’t know how to do it because you don’t know what that kind of knowing looks like.

You may have an image in your mind of what it should look like… but looks can be deceiving, especially when their appearance is inspired by imagination, hope, desire, fantasy.

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mental artsy

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Even if you manage to find someone who genuinely has the skill you need to help you out with a challenge, at some point you’re still going to have to engage personally in understanding this unknown.

You need to reclaim yourself from the wreckage of not having known something, of not having a necessary skill (which made all your other skills seem unnecessary), of not being who you wished you had been, and for things being chaotic rather than orderly (or at least your version of order which made you see something else as chaos).

How do you do that?

Bit by bit.

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“Inch by inch I conquered the inner terrain I was born with. Bit by bit I reclaimed the swamp in which I’d languished. I gave birth to my infinite being, but I had to wrench myself out of me with forceps.”
― Fernando Pessoa

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The other day I visited a local reclamation yard – where old things go to die, be lost, be found, live again.

As I wandered around the bits and pieces, old treasures which at the moment looked like junk (but were waiting to be treasured once again), piled randomly, sometimes as high as the buildings in which they once lived and of which they were an essential part… I got distracted from my actual quest – which was to find vents to place in the plasterboard walls that are covering the actual walls of my house so that the walls behind walls could breathe and not suffocate thus causing the structure to eventually crumble and collapse – this is a short term solution offered by an expert on such matters. He also advised a much more drastic long term solution for which I will need to learn many new skills, and work with people who already have those skills.

One of the things this expert said while examining my house and diagnosing its problems was – It’s a pity you didn’t buy this house before it was ‘fixed’ up by the previous owner.

That kind of thinking… is how to bring chaos to order and lose yourself in an ocean of unclaimed parts.

That kind of thinking is similar to – It’s a pity that I’ve lived the life which I have lived, that I didn’t get to myself before others screwed me up and damaged me while they were fixing me up to suit their vision of who I should be according to their version of themselves and who they needed around them to maintain that.

As I lost myself in a sea of unclaimed parts which were waiting to be claimed…

I was reminded of a scene from a TV show where a young woman who had been violated was taken through a ritual to call herself back to herself. The ritual didn’t work because she did not believe in it, she was doing this because others needed her to do it for them – they felt helpless to help her and needed her to help them feel less helpless.

They were trying to bring order to chaos, while she lived chaos and saw no order to it. Their attempts to order her chaos was just more chaos to her, more of the same even if it tried to look different.

She eventually found her own way of helping herself.

That’s how and when we reclaim ourselves.

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“Don’t you think scars make better stories than tattoos?”
― Craig Johnson

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13 thoughts on “How to Reclaim Yourself

  1. It’s the hard stuff that’s the most valuable. I hope you found some vents (and maybe other things) at the recyling shop. There’s a recycling store here called Restore. I love that name.

    I hope you are well. 🙂

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      1. Me too. After dragging out the whole work contact business, I finally had an interview on Monday (the applications closed on April 19). Two hours long and I got speared by a colleague (She had been difficult all year, problematic in my first interview last summer and then kept trying to steer me wrong by giving me partial information or information that was slightly off.). Her questions were convoluted and repetitive and she kept smirking and sneering. I had a very lovely time. 😉 Then they told me that they would take two weeks to decide whether they’re going to offer me the job or not (as an ongoing contact). Yikes. I’m applying for other jobs now, so I guess I’m on the breakthrough side of things … Hope you are, too. 🙂

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        1. OMG! What a mare! It’s interesting that the colleague who gave you the tough time was female – was she playing that game which you often see in areas that are considered to be male-dominated where to prove herself she must skewer her own ‘species’ to prove how lethal she is. Women in business are often harder on other women to prove to the males that they’re a force to be reckoned with, as hard if not harder than the males. And yet as tough as males can be on other males in business, they still often defer to the ‘boys’ club’ and ‘bro-code’ for which women don’t seem an equivalent, not in business anyway.

          From what you’ve shared of her, she seems to be scared and using the attack-to-defend herself tactic which in the end actually makes her more vulnerable, but she’s focusing on short term and superficial appearances.

          Perhaps the business is one which only has room for one female alpha?

          Whatever happens I’m sure it will end up with a win for you. If these people don’t appreciate you and your skills then there is no point being there. You needed to move on from where you were before because that situation was weighing heavily upon you, you had that other colleague there who was a nightmare, so this move to this job and place gave you the opportunity for a fresh start. Maybe it was a stepping stone, and the next step is the one which really matters.

          When I worked in retail the person who said – I need a couple of weeks to decide about buying into this – was someone you figured you’d never see again, they were just trying to find a way to say no without saying no because for some reason they couldn’t be straightforward. But I’m guessing you work in the corporate environment which is all about yanking chains and messing people around for very complicated and convoluted reasons – those who succeed in corporate environments tend to be the ones who can hold their breath the longest even when there is no reason to do it other than not inhaling the stink of games people play.

          Best wishes, you’re awesome don’t let them make you forget that!

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          1. Thanks for your very supportive comments. 🙂

            It’s been a tough couple of days. I did not get the job (no one did) and it’s also now being re-organised or something – I have no plans to apply for the new [burnt] offering. So, in two weeks I’ll be unemployed. Scary. I’ve always had a job or one to go to and I suddenly feel like the ground has opened up. Yuck. I was expecting bad news, but it’s still a shock when you get it.

            I am actually in education, but over the last ten or so years it has embraced various corporate business models, so it has definitely taken on that voice and tone. You’re quite right about my soon-to-be former colleague, though. She is a queen bee who feels very threatened by other women unless she can control them. She does enjoy presenting as an alpha, but under the bullshit I suspect there’s an unhappy, insecure person. Or maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. It wouldn’t be the first time. 🙂 Being the direct target of one of these people is a nasty experience, though.

            I’m feeling quite deflated right now and wondering to what extent I’m at fault for the events of the last couple of years. However, I have a job to finish and another one to find, so I’m only thinking about it in bits and pieces. But, this is my third big loss in less than a year and so I’m hoping it’s the last one for a while. So, a stepping stone? I would be grateful to turn around and see that. 🙂

            I hope all your house and yard stuffs are going well. 🙂

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            1. As I see it – this job prompted you to move from where you were to where you are now, and maybe that’s the purpose it served and once it had served its purpose it was time for it to go. Also it was there for you as a point of stability during the illness and death of your sister. You can’t blame yourself for being at fault during this time – so much intense change, so much overwhelm.

              It’s worth reminding yourself that – no one got the job because of the disorganisation caused by a reorganisation. Sounds like this place of business is experiencing changes behind the scenes and that’s going to affect everyone. It’s probably best to have lost this job if the system behind it is in disarray, perhaps causing people like your ‘queen bee’ colleague to be extra-claws-out. I reckon she doesn’t have your platinum set of balls when it comes to life changes.

              You’re going to land on your feet. I have complete optimistic confidence about that. Whatever happens next is going to be better than what came before. Perhaps this lull of limbo between one place and another is a moment to reflect upon what you really want for yourself.

              I recall when you first spoke about this job, you said it offered you the opportunity to feel really appreciated for your abilities. Like with a relationship with a narcissist – what they appreciate about us informs us about what we need to appreciate about ourselves. We often lose sight of that later on when it all goes to shit. But if we can remember it, remind ourselves of what makes us shine – we need to give ourselves that same opportunity to shine and feel appreciated. Narcissists let us know what we’re really seeking and need. So does our excitement when, let’s say, an employer hires us for our abilities and we feel appreciated, relieved that someone is validating our skill set.

              Children of narcissists have a hard time with ‘bigging themselves up’ – and at some point we need to accept that we want some of that, and that it isn’t all negative, a slippery slope leading to the hell of self-aggrandisement. We need to accept where we’re skilled and let others know that we know we know stuff and are frigging good at it 😉

              What about freelancing, could that be an option in your field? Being your own boss is maybe the way to go, or working with others on an equal footing, where no one is the ‘boss’. Take this time to rethink and restructure your view.

              Perhaps you could offer to be an asset in the reorganisation of this organisation – a burnt offering is always nourishing to a phoenix!

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              1. Thanks for your reassurance. 😀

                I did feel appreciated for my abilities and also felt that it might be a good place to finish out my career. But as time went on, I really started to see that I wasn’t a good fit for that dept and that it also wasn’t a good fit for me. I tried to make it fit, though. And you are quite right about making a comparison to a relationship with a narcissist. I minimised and ignored the warning signs and also chased the sense of satisfaction that I had in that first month or so. How often does this have to happen before I really get it??? Yikes. I’m not sure what is going on with them, but really, I’m relieved that I’m moving on. Otherwise, I might have stayed just because “it’s a good job,” aka it pays well. And my queen bee colleague would have been way too much over time.

                You’re right that I have a tendency to downplay or even question my abilities. It’s something I always have to work on – meditation helps, at least for me.

                Thanks for the suggestion about freelancing. 🙂 I am considering that as well as a couple of other possibilities. In the meantime, I am applying all over the country and am not sure where I’ll end up, but it looks like M and I will be long-distancing for a while again. It’s a pain in the butt, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

                I love your phoenix comment. 🙂

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                1. There are certain life lessons which are lessons for life. Each time you have to go through something again it’s to discover a different angle on it, another layer to it, it’s not due to not having learned it, on the contrary, the universe simply loves the fact that you’re learning the lesson and wants to teach you more about it.

                  I’ll be very intrigued to know what happens next, I think this adventure you’re on is rather exciting even if it’s not quite what you had in mind to do with your life at this time. The place where you are seems like such a beautiful one to settle in.

                  Best wishes ❤

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  2. Scars absolutely make better stories than tattoos! Tattoos are burned in from the outside in. Scars are from within and leave reminders on the outside for us to think back on.

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    1. Sometimes the two go together, one complementing the other, as a way to incorporate the story of one into the story of the other, join the outside and the inside worlds of experience and perception. I saw a picture of a tattoo which someone had created around a scar which told the story of what the scar meant to them. It was a beautiful union. 🙂

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  3. Holly, your comments really resonated with me. I am in my late 40’s and have just started to realize how much I did that I didn’t want to do. How many times my mother (while not a narcissist was very needy) guilted me into doing things. And I am finally starting to find out who I REALLY AM. I have been in the shadow of my N husband for almost 20 years. I started therapy and my therapist is helping me find my voice, but it is making me see a lot things and how I ended up with him. I struggle between the two of them telling me what to do, but that’s the way my life has always been.

    I am realizing how “forgotten” I felt when I was a child. Being the youngest of 4 and having a 7 year gap between me and my eldest sister, I missed out on a lot. My father passed away when I was 12. Before that it always seemed to me that my parents were busy with the older 3 and I was an afterthought. I don’t think it was intentional….but I ended up either doing what the others did–because it was easier that way–or doing nothing. Either way, I didn’t get to do what I wanted. I was put on the community swim team when I was 8. I actually enjoyed swimming, but in order to compete you had to have a recorded time. In order to have a recorded time you had to attend a “novice” meet and then based on your time for your event you were classified either an A, B or C swimmer. My parents never took me to a novice meet to get a time. They were too busy with my brother’s and my middle sister’s swim meets. My eldest sister did not have to join the swim team. She played the piano instead (which led to subsequent piano lessons for me). When I mentioned to my mother that they had never taken me to a swim meet she was completely unaware that that had happened. She did apologize and felt bad about it. Swimming did not continue after my dad got sick.

    I wanted to do gymnastics and I remember my mom saying it was too expensive. When I got into junior high I had to play basketball–because my sister played. I didn’t want to play basketball and I was horrible. Gymnastics was the next season’s sport. I thought, “At last! I can do gymnastics because it is free at school.” Nope. Because I had played basketball already I was not able to do gymnastics. My mother was too busy with my dad being sick. I was able to do gymnastics the following year, but I was rather late to the game so only competed with the beginner group. I did very well with the vault and the balance beam and thought I could have been a very good gymnast had I been afforded the opportunity at an earlier age.

    I remember an uncle saying once when I was about 12 (pretty sure it was after my dad died), “Lynn was always the little homemaker, Jimmy was the boy, Wendy was the athlete and you Becky, were just cute.” Really? That was all I had to offer was that I was cute? Way to give me some self confidence and value. I think that is why I struggled with sports. I was in the shadow of my older sister who was good at any sport she played.

    I have never felt like I fit in anywhere and have always felt like a walking contradiction. High school was horrible for me. I was too smart for the pretty ones to like and too pretty for the smart ones to like so I spent a lot of time alone. Alone. There is another contradiction…while I usually prefer to be alone, I feel left out a lot.

    This blog is my absolute favorite because it helps me not feel alone OR left out. There are others out there like me.

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  4. This was a thought provoking piece. It brought up a memory of when I was around 8. I had been taking dance classes since I was 4. I enjoyed it very much and was good at it. I also took gymnastics, enjoyed and had been improving each year.

    The next thing I knew it was all over. It stopped. No more dance or gymnastics. I can’t remember my mother telling me the reason why – I do remember coming home from school one day and my mother attacking me because I had told the daughter of the dance school owner – that my mom said it was getting to be too expensive. I imagine this girl’s mom called my mom to speak to her about it.

    The daughter was a good school friend of mine – I spent many days at their house – dancing in their home studio – we would make up and practice routines and perform duets. I also spent a lot of time at the dance school they owned. Very good memories.

    My mother told me that I had no business telling my friend that it was too expensive. I remember feeling very ashamed. I shared private information but I didn’t understand at the time it was supposed to be a secret. Or I wonder if I made it up – because I didn’t have a reason for why.

    Over the years my mom’s story was that I wanted to quit dance .That’s why it stopped. When I was younger I never challenged this story. I never even doubted it. After this – I was steered into activities I did not want to do – I wanted to play drums – I was told “Girls don’t play drums, you will be learning the saxophone.” I didn’t want that but I did it anyway. I ended up quitting. I was then told to go out for girls softball. I didn’t want to but I did it. I ended up quitting. My mom now had many examples to point out to me and others to prove her point. I was a quitter.

    My first college I ended up quitting after a semester. I did manage to complete training at a trade school. Into my 20’s I worked a series of jobs that I quit. I wasn’t doing anything that I chose to do. I was doing what I was told I had to do. I was in my 20’s, living with my mother, and had to work to help her make ends meet.

    Now I’m in my mid 40’s and realizing that the majority of my life- with the exception of the past 8 years, when I became a rebel and began to do things I really wanted to do – has been spent doing things I didn’t really want to do, yet I did them. I asked myself recently “Why did you choose this, why that?” – and the first word that came to my mind was survival.

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