Let me tell you about something I call the railway tracks. It is something I have struggled with for many, many years. I get stuck. I plan my life, and those plans are like tracks laid out before me. In good times, they are a guide. I stick to them, but I can also get off them, make detours, follow impulses, go where the moon calls me. In bad times, I am trapped by them, no deviation, no way out. Rewind 5 years. I’ve driven into the city to go to a church service that evening. I’m trying to make new friends. I know I’m multiple but I’ve told almost no one. I’m exploring an idea that if we don’t switch, if we take the same part to church each time, we might have a better chance at making friends. It’s sort of working but also not. Driving home late at night, there’s a sudden yearning inside to go home via the beach instead. The night is cold and clear and the moon is bright silver and I’m terribly lonely and lost. I want to do this so badly, but I can’t. The plan was to go to church and come home. The beach isn’t in the diary, isn’t on the schedule. I fight very hard but I cannot make myself drive there. I go home instead. This is the railway tracks.
At the time I dig into it enough to realise that I suffered from it because it supported my functioning in another way. I didn’t exemplify the chaos that is common in someone who has parts, because we all stuck to an agreed schedule. The downside was this lack of freedom to be spontaneous. That was upsetting but an acceptable trade off. Over time, the schedule – and this whole approach, the group being bound to decisions made previously, a rigid adherence to agreements, inflexibility, feeling trapped and locked in, has degenerated into severe depression. Hence, the letting go of it all, the following of small voices, listening to immediate needs and wants. The tracks are suddenly gone. The sense of living my life by constantly bullying myself into doing things I desperately did not want to do, being so far outside of my comfort zone I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen it, of holding myself down, holding my hand in the fire, holding the feelings at bay, that has gone. The boulders on my heart have lifted. The despair is still there, the screaming pain, the loneliness, the scars, the terror, the years of torment and loss. But the crushing destruction of motivation, initiative, emotion, that has gone, for now at least. The tracks are gone. I can do what I wish, make impulse decisions. Turn right instead of left. Stand at the edge of the world and watch the ships.
Suddenly I’m walking Zoe because I want to, because I love her, because I love going out in the night and the cold where I have the world to myself, not because I have to, not out of guilt or obligation.
Suddenly I’m realising that this freedom is the key to attachment, to connection, to love. That this isn’t just how I want to look after my dog, it’s the kind of parent I want to be. Connected. Let off the hook for not being perfect. Working with what I have. It’s the kind of partner, friend, person, I want to be.
Stronger members of my system have allowed themselves to be bound by the needs and fears of more vulnerable members. It’s been critical for cohesion. We’ve been very good at presenting only one face to the world. We’re united by a set of values, and the primary need to survive. This leashing also strips us of much of our strength, passion, fire, and zest for life. You cannot dream when your dreamers are locked in stone. There’s a cold war between those who hope and those who despair. We are changing this. We are loosening leashes. I don’t know what will happen. That’s precisely the frightening and wonderful thing. I don’t know what my future holds.