There’s A Whole In The Bucket

I have to confess something to all of you. I am a fraud. I’ve been writing about my life here for years now, and a few of you have taken time to let me know that you have been inspired, that you find my writing hopeful and positive. Guess what? It’s a sham. When I write hopeful things here, 99% of the time it’s not because I’m feeling it, it’s because I need to feel it and I’m hoping that writing from a positive perspective will make it so. Usually it works. Today it won’t.

I suppose I can’t consider it a total waste if I make it to 40 and realize I’ve been doing it all wrong. You might think I’ve got a lot of stuff figured out. You may think I’m a great mom, and an awesome partner. That’s a lie too. I’m not. The sum of my life experiences has made me hard and angry. I respond to stress and conflict by going on the offensive, or shutting down and walking away to avoid going on the offensive. I perceive everyone as out to hurt me, and then I try to hurt them worse so they will back off. I’ve been mean and cold, and harsh and unsympathetic with everyone in my life who I love. Everyone, except Noah.

My son is the first piece of me that I can look at and feel nothing but love, even in the most challenging moments. Noah is my catalyst, who has taught me that the only way I can ever hope to soften and change is to learn to look at all of the other pieces of myself with that same unconditional love. Nothing in my entire life has been harder to do than this, and I am trying like hell to change. To soften. To sit in my vulnerability and share it without anger and blame. You could ask me to become fluent in Mandarin overnight and I swear it would be easier than the changes I am trying to make.

The changing part wasn’t actually the hardest, not after I realized how much of my rage and self-protection (some people call this defensive or offensive behavior) were tied to a traumatic event from my childhood. This illuminated nearly every single behavior that I hated, it contextualized and explained it. It allowed me to see myself stuck as that seven-year-old, stuck in that place of terror, and love the hell out of my little girl self. Once I could do that, it was like a switch was flicked and I was able to empathize better with everyone around me. By loving myself better, I could love others better too.

But here’s the hard part. None of the people around you can see what’s happening inside, and when you’ve been the kind of difficult-to-live with, angry asshole that I have been, they continue to see you as such. You keep trying, and they keep treating you as though the same kinds of negative behaviors are happening, even when they are not. They get stuck, because they are afraid of those behaviors, and their fear makes them blind to anything good that might be happening. I am trying so hard to be better, but it’s not landing, and sometimes it’s a spectacular fail.

To make matters worse, I’m trying to evolve while living with my in-laws. A lot of in-laws. There is often up to eleven people under our roof! Multiple witnesses who have seen every parent and partner failure I have made in the last two years. They are good people. They are wonderful people, and I love them, but I don’t really know them that well. I need privacy. I need a safe space where we can heal, where I can try to flex these new muscles, where I can organically grow, or fall flat on my face as the case may be, and not have so many witnesses. I need safety.

I’m trying to fill the bucket, but the bucket has a hole. Nekky put that quite eloquently this morning, and it struck me as very true indeed. There’s a hole in the bucket. A big one. And I’m so very, very tired of trying to fill it up with good only to watch the good fall through the hole. I feel like I am constantly failing.

Of course I want to heal my relationship with my daughters. What flows freely with my biological child has been an excruciatingly painful contrast to my many shortcomings where my daughters are concerned. I have some serious lost time to make up for, time that consists in equal parts of a total lack of understanding about how children ‘work’ and so much misdirected pain and hardness from my past.

It would be nice to have a healthier relationship with my partners, though I’m at the precipice of deciding that romantic relationships aren’t really intended for people like me. Those relationships need to be a two way street, and I just seem to suck the life out of everyone and give very little back. At the very least, it would be nice to heal some shit so we can at least be awesome friends and parents.

I just don’t know how to keep filling the bucket when there’s a goddamned hole. As always, I turn to the Internet for answers, hopeful that the lyrics to the old folk song will have a happy ending.

From Wikipedia:

There’s a Hole in My Bucket” (or “…in the Bucket“) is a children’s song, along the same lines as “Found a Peanut”. The song is based on a dialogue about a leaky bucket between two characters, called Henry and Liza. The song describes a deadlock situation: Henry has got a leaky bucket, and Liza tells him to repair it. But to fix the leaky bucket, he needs straw. To cut the straw, he needs a knife. To sharpen the knife, he needs to wet the sharpening stone. To wet the stone, he needs water. However, when Henry asks how to get the water, Liza’s answer is “in a bucket”. It is implied that only one bucket is available – the leaky one, which, if it could carry water, would not need repairing in the first place.

As I’m reading this, feeling more and more despair, I glance at the title of this post. I’ve spelled “hole” “whole”, quite by accident, but maybe that’s it? Maybe I just keep pouring myself into the bucket, all of me, every last inch no matter how big the hole gets. Put the whole in the bucket, even if it gushes out onto the ground. It’s going to go somewhere, all of that bucket-filling stuff, and if that particular bucket can never be filled, at least I can say I tried. Really tried. Not like I tried with my failed marriage. Not like I tried with countless careers that I gave up on. Not like I tried so many times before until it hurt too much to keep trying. There is no epidural for life. It hurts sometimes, and maybe it’s in pushing through the pain that we are reborn, truly reborn.

I don’t feel better. I don’t feel happier or more positive at the end of this post. I’m not going to lie, I am aching and tired and I feel like giving up, but at least I have a little direction. If I can’t fill the fucking bucket, at least I can water the grass.

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11 Comments

  1. Astute_PhD
    April 9, 2015 / 8:39 pm

    Yet another twist in the histrionic, self-aggrandizing saga of you.

    • Catherine Skinner
      April 9, 2015 / 8:40 pm

      Thanks for reading and feeding my neurosis! xo

    • nsilcox
      April 9, 2015 / 10:29 pm

      With a handle like Astute_PhD, this person must know something about self-aggrandizing.

  2. Richard
    April 9, 2015 / 9:17 pm

    I was thinking more of A-Hole PhD – not sure Astute is accurate in this case

  3. Jason
    April 10, 2015 / 8:34 am

    You’re not a fraud, dear lady. You’re one of the few humans I’ve met in my life trying to make serious changes based on self-reflection for what seem to me like all of the right reasons.

    The knowledge that comes from being in these dark places are the ones that will change you and start to become a new foundation for you to move forward. The people who love you *will* see the changes and your efforts, but just like you can’t control the rate of change, you can’t control when others will notice it either.

    Meaningful growth is a frustratingly fucked up cycle of effort, rebalancing, and surrender.

  4. Su
    April 10, 2015 / 9:12 am

    Keep walking your path and your journey and purpose will continue to unfold. This relationship stuff isn’t easy xx

  5. Jackie
    April 10, 2015 / 10:29 am

    Nothing I have to say will come out as eloquently as the way you write so I’ll just say this. You are important to me and I’m lucky that 7+ years ago I decided that taking my clothes off in a big ass tent was a good idea. xo

  6. April 10, 2015 / 11:35 am

    Dearest Catherine, thank you for this post. I have looked up to you since we first met. I would of never learned all the incredible life lessons the burlesque community has taught me without people like you. Your love, support and inspiration when I was a newbie meant more to me then you could ever know. When you asked me to perform with Les Coquettes I felt as if I had made it. You made my dream of performing with you all come true. Reading this post today of all days it pure synchronicity because my bucket has a hole too. I never had the words to express what I was feeling until reading your post. I am struggling, life is too hard for me right now and I have no idea where to turn. Everything I try just falls through the bucket. I want to figure out where I belong and what I need to do to move forward but I am failing. I always try to remain positive and be the change I want to see in the world but anxiety is taking over. I feel I have so much to give but don’t know where to give it. I feel ashamed that therapy, mediation, positive thinking and self-love is not enough to help my anxiety and I need a pill to take me off the really scary edge. I sit hear wiring this post to you listening to Breathe Me by Sia and releasing so much sadness and fear. Thank you for putting words to what I am feeling. It is reassuring to know other amazing people have holes in their bucket too. I would love to go for a coffee and reconnect with you when you are in the city. Thank you for always being an inspiration in my life. I really needed it, especially today. Lots of love & appreciation, dd

  7. bicichica
    April 10, 2015 / 1:46 pm

    Oh lovely, my heart hurts for you. If your writing wasn’t so damn good, my heart would hurt a lot less for you, but you have such a way with words, that your pain, frustration and despair just oozes out. And while nothing anyone says can make you feel better, and make the pain go away, I hope you at least know that by writing it down and putting it out there, you are in some small way, healing yourself. I wish you continued strength and perseverance on this journey, it isn’t easy, we all have our demons, some a hell of a lot bigger than others, but be very proud that you are fighting them. A lot of us don’t ever even bother, we just let them continue to destroy and hurt us and sit back with agonizing apathy that ‘this is just me, this is just my life’. But you, you are not apathetic to them, you really aren’t. Keep at them, and one day, you will slay the fuckers! Sending you a big hug. xoxo

  8. Lindsey
    April 10, 2015 / 5:07 pm

    So inspiring in your honesty and vulnerability. Don’t feel you have yo apologize for putting on a brave face or sending out positive vibes when you’re struggling to feel them yourself. That’s actually a really healthy and positive step to healing, even if it can be draining sometimes. Dress for the job you want etc… You are just so fantastic to admit these things openly. The residual hurts when someone is learning to cope with their traumas and demons sometimes feel like they outweigh the good progress, and it’s important to be as empathetic about that as possible. But you’re not alone in feeling this way. Actually thinking this may be a good time to start a support group in that vein. Amazing and self aware people like you cone to realize these painful truths about ourselves as we grow. But the important thing is that we are working to change. No matter how long it took us to figure it out.

  9. July 8, 2015 / 4:42 am

    Dear Catherine I have never read anything by you before.. just stumbled on this and I can relate to so much of what you say.. what happened to you at age seven I wonder.. I had a massive trauma at five.. and well it changes.. but does not go away I wonder is there anything that can take away that stuff.. I blame’ IT’ periodically for alot of my severe judgment on myself.. i liked the way you taked about loving that littel girl in you.. I feel i am all sunshine and light to alot of people.. and they dont know the real me.. at least you are exposing that part of yourself that is the opposite. Here I am at the ripe old age of 56, and I am still being challenged by the ability to love myself.. I dont like myself alot.. alot and SOMe of the time…
    thanks for sharing..ps one of my most favourite versions of this song is by Harry Belafonte I will try and attach it…
    My mother took her own life when I was five.. she had resons.. very bad physical pain.. and probably depression with it… I didnot know that she took her own life till Iwas sixteen.. and it was as if she died all over again…
    to be continued https://youtu.be/ElLpKewnxp4