ten: devotion

it turns out that i have a lot of strong feelings about this word, which i didn’t know until i started writing.

to begin, this word never fails to make me think of religious stuff. like people devoting themselves to jesus. to their missions in africa. to studying the new testatment, line by line, over decades. or as a plural, devotions, meaning prayers that are offered to the big guy upstairs.

it also reminds me of things people would say in a eulogy or an obituary…as a way to canonize aunt bethel’s love for her family, one might speak about how she was a devoted mother and wife. so there is just something about this word, this notion of selfless, mindless dedication, that i find uncomfortable. that offends my sensibilities. (i can totally hear my mother’s voice here, now, sharply chastising me for being so critical. for focusing on the negative.)

as much as i’m uneasy about being a person devoted to who- or whatever, i think that this word also makes me feel guilty. if i’m being honest, i don’t feel as if i devote myself to my child and my wife nearly enough; most certainly not as much as they deserve. i’m more a distracted mom and wife, i think, and i’d bet they’d say the same. i’d more likely be memorialized as someone who tried hard to stay present approximately 60% of the time or mostly tried to swim against the tides of self-centredness or gets an A for her efforts to not indulge in assholery as much as she wanted. i mean, at least those are honest depictions. i would far prefer that sort of realness at a funeral than some sanitized bullshit about how perfect a human i was in life. no one’s perfect, sharon. we’re all just doing our best here, and usually, fall woefully short…so yeah, i resent the guilt.

the real kicker about this word is how valued it is in terms of our roles in a family. being a devoted daughter. devoted wife. devoted mother. devoted father. what do these even mean?

for me, of course, the idea of a devoted father is all twisty and gross in my mind and my body. it makes me feel sick and ashamed and resentful and even a bit crazy. coz i bet there are people who would say that my dad is a devoted father. and what i want to know is, devoted to what?

coz sure, he’s shown real devotion, all right. to the illusion of normalcy. to lies, to cover-ups, to sickness, silence, and denial. to gaslighting. to ignorance and misogyny. but that’s not what they mean when they say that, is it? they mean he’s dedicated to the well-being and care of his family. that he has the best interests of his kids at heart. that he cares and is present for us, has made sacrifices for us, puts us above all else.

but that’s just not what happened at our house. not for this kid. but…nobody really knows that, and i certainly can’t consult my records from back then (i also couldn’t write, but never mind), which means…it must not have happened, right?

so what i’m left with, in the middle of the night, tapping away on this keyboard at my dining room table, with no lights on, is that maybe my resenting this word is because of all the anger and all of the sadness for what i didn’t get back then, and am not getting now. and while i’m at it, i hate this word with all of the white-hot anger at all of those who did get it, who got to feel the devotion of their parents in the purest sense, who are safe and who are navigating the world with that much more sturdy a foundation. who are able to weather the normal storms of life without the added layers of panic and terror and trauma kicking away every raincoat, umbrella, tree, and shelter in a four hundred mile radius.

i will never know what that is like. and so, the truth is, that there is an ugly, envious part of me who hates those who do.

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