Thursday, January 17, 2008

Men in Uniform

I apologize for being off the radar lately. I've been in a bit of a funk, and frankly I have not been feeling the least bit interesting lately. Even when it occurs to me to talk to people, call a friend, or whatever, I have not been able to come up with a single thing to say. So, I've stayed quiet.

I learned something about myself yesterday that I've been mulling over, and I thought perhaps it might have a place on this blog. It isn't really about spanking (well, maybe it is, but only marginally), so if you're here for spanking, skip this entry and go down to my last post.

A few weeks ago I got a traffic ticket. I made a turn in a residential area that I did not know was prohibited. In fairness, it should not be prohibited because there is absolutely no reason for it to be. I was pulled over. I gave the officer my license and registration, which he took back to his car to check. When he returned, he handed them back and said, "Your driving record is impeccable." He then proceeded to apologize for having to give me a ticket for such a ludicrous thing (even he thought it was), but apparently the residents had been bitching and his hands were tied. "If you have time, call and schedule an appointment with the District Court to fight this. It'll be taken off your record." I thanked him, and did just that.

My hearing was yesterday. I should not have been nervous. There was no reason for me to be - the cop himself told me that he would speak to the prosecutor for me. But I was terrified. So much so that I only managed to sleep for a couple hours the night before.

There are times when I think I have two of me inside my mind. One half of me is perfectly logical and rational. This is the me I wish I could be all of the time. But then, there is also the other half. This is the hysterical me, the one who embodies all of my fears and phobias, the one who overanalyzes and reads way too much into everything. This is also the me that controls all of the responses that I have to things which I don't understand. This is the me who was up all night worrying for reasons I could not explain.

Sitting in the courtroom the next day, with Red by my side, Rational Me kept trying to convince Irrational Me that there was no reason to fear. Irrational Me was bouncing up against the sides of my skull trying to flee for her life. Rational Me had plenty of evidence to support her position. Irrational Me had none. Still, Irrational Me was the dominant one at the moment.

I've mentioned in the past that I'm a rape survivor. I've also talked about how rape didn't traumatize me in and of itself, but was traumatic because it taught me lessons that I was not prepared to know. As a child I'd been taught that there are people in this world who can always be trusted to protect you. Both cops and firemen had been to my elementary school to talk to us about what to do in emergencies - don't talk to strangers, stop drop and roll, call 911, and all of that. I trusted them implicitly.

Once the police found out about the rapes, I learned differently. Most of the professionals I encountered were not outwardly mean to me (with the notable exception of my rapist's defense attorney), but I did learn that protecting me was not even on their radar screens. I no longer trusted the police officers who came to help me, the judge who heard the case, and certainly not the lawyers involved.

I don't know if all children think this way, but I am learning that as a child, and even as an adult sometimes, I thought categorically. I didn't just stop trusting those police officers, I stopped trusting all police officers. Actually, I stopped trusting all of the people whom I'd been taught to trust. They were now all unknown and unpredictable entities to me.

Rational Me understands how this could happen to me as a child. What I can't seem to figure out how to do is reverse this distrust as an adult. Sitting terrified in the courtroom, I simply could not figure out how I could override my ingrained fear of these individuals. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how this fear has been limiting my life. After September 11th, I wanted to be able to stop by my local police department and fire department as so many other people were doing to thank those individuals who risk their lives to protect the lives of people whom they don't even know. I never managed to do it. All I could do was write donation checks to various police and firefighter associations and say some quiet prayers. Even when the firemen stand in the intersections with their boots to collect donations, my heart pounds and my breath quickens. For no logical reason at all, I'm afraid of these people.

Now for the silliest and most embarrassing part of this confession - I've realized that I'm even afraid of a certain Fireman Spanko who I don't even really know and who lives almost all the way across the country from me anyway. One of the blogs that I enjoy reading on a regular basis is Chris' Firehouse. He seems like a really wonderful person, and I've exchanged emails and blog comments with his wonderful wife Sparkle several times. When I decided to become active with the online spanko community, I decided to contact those blog writers whose blogs I most enjoyed to let them know how much I appreciate them. To date, I still have not managed to do this for Chris (although I'm proud to say I've managed a couple of brief comments on his blog). Rational Me knows he's not going to fly across the country and strangle me with a fire hose, but Irrational Me is wetting herself right now and trying to convince me to delete this paragraph.

So, Chris, if you're reading this, I love your blog. I'd like to be able to send you a proper message the way I did with Sparkle and others, but for now I'm only comfortable hiding behind my own blog readers and waving from a distance. I don't know if I'll ever have the opportunity to meet you, but if I do, please don't take personally my uncontrollable shaking and inability to speak. It really has nothing to do with you. I'm just Irrational.


Jigsaw Analogy said...

Thanks for sharing--this really speaks to a lot of things I go through.

One thing I've found is, "rational me" can NOT get through to "emotional me" by using rational arguments. "Emotional me" just gets more and more frantic, feeling un-listened-to, like she (in my case, they) have to keep pushing and struggling to get across the fear.

The thing that's been helping me the most? Let out those feelings. Express them. Allow yourself to say, "I am terrified. I am angry. I am sad" or whatever the feeling is. Express the feelings, and then maybe you can say, "Do you think that feeling is about today, or the past?" Don't push it. If "emotional you" insists that the feelings are based in the present, allow it to sit for a few days, weeks, whatever. Listen to the emotions, and allow them out.

I say this like it's easy. It's not. It's really a struggle to allow yourself to feel instead of being rational.

It can help if you have a therapist, or a friend/partner/supporter, or a journal, or a blog. Express the feelings to them, and if you're lucky, there will be someone *outside* to play the "rational" role (hopefully, someone who will listen first).

Sorry if this is incoherent, didn't get much sleep last night.

Rose said...

Thanks, JA! That isn't incoherent at all. I suppose that that is exactly what this post is about - letting it out, acknowledging the fear even if it is completely mortifying to do so. And it certainly is mortifying. I've been debating about deleting this post since I posted it. But hopefully by putting it out there I'll be able to deal with it a little better.

It just feels so ridiculous sometimes. I've been through some things that other people would find completely horrifying, and yet I want to hide from police officers and such as if they are boogeymen. It makes no sense!

Serenity Everton said...

Hi Rose!

I very nearly was defeated this evening when I saw, because of life such as it is, that I had 741 unread blog entries in my feed reader.

I didn't know where to start, except to just hit the "Mark All Read" button and start at the beginning.

I'm so very glad I didn't do that! I ran down the list just once and hit the most important blogs. I'll leave Chris to make his own comments but, truthfully, even though I'm not much intimidated by firemen these days...

policemen are enough to make me wet my pants in fear when they so much as look at me. So, for different reasons obviously, your entry resonated with me :)


Anonymous said...


Given your history, I can totally understand where you're coming from. Uniforms can be a very powerful symbol of authority and membership in a specific group. This is often an advantage, but as your experiences point out, can also sometimes be a major disadvantage.

There are some in the fire service who advocate changing our uniforms simply because they do look so similar to those worn by the police. Some departments have done so: I can think of at least 2 or 3 major cities (and there are probably more) where firefighters wear embroidered polo shirts instead of the traditional uniform shirt and badge. And even the departments that still have the traditional uniforms are more frequently wearing just their screenprinted (under) t-shirts in lieu of the uniform shirt except for more formal/official situations.

I realize that your feelings go much deeper than just the superficial issue of a uniform though. Believe it or not, I'm often intimidated by police officers too. I work with several regularly, am on a first name basis with most of them and consider s few to be good friends. I've even had a few in my family. But, when I'm driving down the road and see a cruiser behind me or on a side-street, or if I walk into someplace where an officer I don't know is present, I often get nervous, even though I rationally know I have no reason to be.

So, thank you for acknowledging me in whatever fashion you feel most comfortable, and believe me, I don't take offense to any trepidation on your part.

And, I promise to never strangle you with my fire hose. Asphyxiation's not my kink...I'm just into spanking. ;-)