fifty-one: kind(ness)

this is a word that is both meaningful and hard for me.

meaningful, because i hold kindness in high esteem…value it greatly. aspire to it, try to embody it, cultivate it, and live it in my daily life. i fail often, of course. but i won’t ever stop trying, because i know its profound impact, and i believe in it, am a devout follower.

and yet, hard, because there was a bit of a shortage of kindness in my household, growing up. my parents were purposely unkind fairly often, but even when they were not, i would not describe them as particularly kind. things at home felt very particular, all sharp edges and expectations and discipline. measured responses. a lot of impatience. it is difficult for me to recall spontaneous cuddles or affection or praise. when i think of kindness in my childhood, it is not their faces i see (but thankfully, i can think of other instances of kindness. kind eyes and kind faces and kind hands and kind acts, and i am grateful to have those.)

*

many times, even a stranger unexpectedly calling me ‘dear’ or ‘sweetheart’ invites a massive lump into my throat, floods my eyes, even before i can control it. it is so so embarrassing, how a correctly-timed kind word, or a loving glance, or someone speaking gently can entirely do me in. i used to say to my therapist that my idea of torture would be to have someone say a bunch of loving, positive, things about me to my face. like in a row, one after another. it makes me squirm even now, ugh, where would i look, what would i do with it all, when would it stop ugh ugh ugh. but tie me to a chair and criticize me, withhold praise, shrug at me or otherwise act indifferently for hours, and i’d snuggle in like i was home.

*

speaking of therapy…yesterday, i had an appointment and we were about to do some work that i had been avoiding. my therapist was asking me to check in with my little one inside about something, and i didn’t fucking want to, i just didn’t want to hear about it. i crossed my arms, pulled faces, fidgeted in my seat. she waited, and watched, patiently, and then, right in the middle of my huffing and puffing and eye-rolling,  surprised me with a snort and a belly laugh. you’re so, so cute, she said. i could just see her in you right then, that sweet wee girl. i could’ve laid in her lap and cried just from that, for hours and hours and hours. my face is wet just remembering it. why is she like that with me?

and why weren’t they?

*

the most pride i feel as a mother is when people say our daughter is kind; we’ve heard it from her teachers, our friends, her friends’ parents, her grandparents. she is kind, so kind to nearly everyone.

except herself.

and when i am reminded of that, when i see that and hear how mean she is to her little self, how intolerant, when she makes a simple innocent mistake and is sobbing and telling me that she is the worst kid, she is a rotten person, she doesn’t deserve to be here, it is the most desolate i ever feel as a mother. it is hard not to just quit, right then and there. did i do that to her? is it just in my blood, something i can’t help being and giving to her? is it a cultural affliction, or just a genetic one?

*

years ago, i remember hearing about amma, a woman colloquially called ‘the hugging saint’ from a province at the southern tip of india. i don’t remember where exactly i heard of her, or read of her, but i remember seeing a picture of her and being struck by her kind face. and also recall a video of her, quietly but meaningfully hugging people, hordes of them, one by one, for hours on end. searching out their eyes, and holding them close to her, smiling gently as people dissolved into tears in her arms. when asked why she did it, she responded simply that we all deserve love, no matter who we are. at last count, she has apparently comforted over 34 million people…that amazes me. how much love she gives, but also how much she gets back. she must be brimming, all of the time.

this is not really finished but it’s all i’ve got for tonight…sorry it’s just trailed off in the middle, i’m overcome by sadness and tiredness and the kindest thing feels like burying myself in my flannel sheets and succumbing to sleep.


fifty: creativity

i’m not a creative person.

absolutely, i am able to see beauty, and i can capture it from behind a camera lens or with my pen or sometimes with my voice…but that isn’t creativity, it’s just dictation. i didn’t make it with my hands, or fashion it out of thin air…not like pocketbrit with her drawing or with friends who are composers of beautiful music. yes, i am decent at grabbing hold of something and helping you to see it or feel it…but i don’t produce it. i just…process it, maybe?

i think it’s an important distinction. i don’t feel bad about it at all…but i do feel strongly that the true notion of creativity should be used to describe those who create, who generate something, all on their own. that’s not me.

 

Creativity

 

I have packs of drawing pencils, I have watercolour pencils, I have watercolour paints. I have a billion sketchbooks, I have paintbrushes, I have pastel pencils, I have charcoal…loads of bits given to me by family members who used to paint. (I’m most certainly not a painter,anything involving paint remains very much unused)

I’ve always loved to draw. I’d draw all the time when I was little and there’s a drawer in my dad’s study that still has some of them in it.

I loved making cards… We went through a really long phase of doing that.

I love making things. I enjoy being creative and I like making things look nice.

But creativity wasn’t exactly the thing that was celebrated in our house. And somewhere along the lines, the comments, the nitpicking, the faults with what I produced got to me enough that I just wouldn’t do it.

Now I draw… But nobody knows I draw, nobody sees them (bar pocketcanadian). I enjoy it, but I have no confidence in what I produce.

But its good, its a good grounding technique, my t goes on about it a lot, always asks if I’ve been drawing that week.

forty-nine: hidden/hiding

i struggled with this one. because it felt ugly to put the two things i thought about in proximity to each other. in any case, i couldn’t think of anything better so i published it anyway.

  • the innocence of how our daughter used to run to a tree at the park, cover her eyes and lean into the bark of the tree, in full view, entirely convinced she was hidden; also, how she used to call i’m over heeeeeere! when we ‘looked’ for her
  • how it feels like i have this massive massive secret these days; that i am hiding this huge thing about me and my identity. that i have been dirty, violated, used. that i am hiding part of my true self, the part who now, fully believes the little one who lived it first. that i exist in this multiplicitous (is that a word?) matrix, where i am a capable professional, a mother, a wife, a friend, and at my core, a survivor of horrific gross things that were done to me when i was half the age of my daughter. in my darker moments i hate myself for keeping this secret. but i can’t risk telling it, you see. because no matter how much shame i feel for keeping her to myself, for guarding her, for keeping her tucked in, i am not bulletproof enough yet. all the #metoo and the media stories and the pain in the faces of fellow survivors still bring me to my knees, still make me tremble in awe and with grief. i am stronger than i ever thought possible but i am not strong enough, yet, to resist tearing them apart with my teeth if they were to hurt her again. we’re not ready. i’m not ready.

Hidden/hiding

When I was a kid we had this ‘tree house’ that was in one of the fields where we lived. It wasn’t much of a tree house… It was on an oak tree whose roots were in a stream and that had fallen over but still grew. There were a few planks that had been nailed in creating a frame and some planks to create something resembling a floor, but that was pretty much it. Where the roots where where it had fallen over, they met with the stream and went up vertically creating a sort of vertical wall (only maybe 3 or 4 feet high) a few feet away from the bank of the steam which was parallel to it. Over the top we’d put some more wood, and created a bit of a den. A small space enclosed by tree roots and a muddy bank. Full of leaves and bugs and with a wooden roof. The trickling sound of the steam right next by.

That steam led into a large pond, and on the side further away, slightly difficult to get to, was a rope swing hanging from a tree right next to the pond. A thick branch with rope wrapped around the middle of it and tied up in the top of the tree.

I’d hide out there. Take food and drink and books and stuff to draw and id hide out. Id play and make up stories. Id swing and swing for hours, sometimes being lucky enough to watch 8 beautiful little ducklings swim by.

Nobody normally cared to notice I was missing. Id used to wait, hoping and expecting someone to come down and see where i was…never really had any luck with that.

*****

I’d hide away in my brain. Space out, dissociate. Id hide away from the experiences happening to my body.

****

I once ran away and hid down in our orchard. I never ran away, but one of my brothers did it frequently at the time and got a lot of attention. He’d get picked up by the police, he’d be worried about, and asked what was going on. They never even knew I was gone. So, I never did that again, I was so ashamed.

*****

Id create tents in my bedroom all the time for a bit. Blankets over the bedposts, my own little den. Somewhere id do homework and spend my evening and try to feel safe. Somewhere I could hide from my life.

forty-eight: curved

i don’t know why, but all day, i thought of this word in relation to the beauty of the human body.

…the curved line of her jaw when i look at her in profile

…the curve of his arms, hidden partially in shadow

…the curve of her cheek, as i pull her closer to me

for whatever reason, it feels like a sensual word, and not in a way that feels awful and bad, for once. it happens so rarely that i’ll just take it, tonight, no questions asked.