This word makes my stomach turn. It’s gross and disgusting and I hate it.
beyond the U2 song (by the same name) that’s been pulsing in my head all day, i don’t really want to explore this one right now, sorry.
There’s a lot of it going around
i don’t like this word because it reminds me of one of my mom’s biggest hang-ups: that she was stupid.
she grew up in a family of overachievers, of loud arguers, where she reported that she always felt different. she wasn’t as quick on her feet, wasn’t as sharp with her tongue, felt like she didn’t belong. she felt less smart than everyone else, and she hated it.
enter me, her firstborn. not a genius, by any stretch, but somewhat precocious. reading at three. writing lengthy stories shortly thereafter. musical and funny and sassy. i didn’t stand a chance.
i remember, from a pretty young age, the accusations that i was trying to make her feel stupid. her face centimetres away from mine, her spit spraying my cheeks, her breath hot on my face (ugh i’m feeling all of it typing this, scared and confused) as she screamed at me. grabbed me roughly. sometimes she accused my dad too, both of us together, that we were conspiring to make her feel stupid and not enough. she refused to play certain games (trivial pursuit was one that really upset her, i remember) and i learned, very quickly, to curb my intelligence in her presence, so as not to anger her. i made myself smaller and more dim and less sparkly.
i was rewarded for good report cards, because being smart in school was desirable, being smart in school reflected well upon them, they were known in the community and it was good to trot out my achievements. but my intelligence was not a thing of pride, it was something i kept quiet – except at school, where, like pocketbrit, i was a pleasure to teach and a delightful student and a bright and inquisitive child. despite this praise, she rarely missed a chance to knock me down a few pegs, to assert her superiority, to demonstrate her power over me. to let me know that she knew who i really was, that i wasn’t so smart after all.
i remember being accused of falsifying my interests, because clearly i just wanted to impress people, i wanted attention. i was just doing it for show, to make her look bad, as one-upmanship. i write all of this now and it’s fucking insane to remember back, and it hurts, too. it was such a deliberate act: to make me tiny, to tamp down my light, to make my desire to learn and grow a personal affront. her unadulterated, unfiltered, unaddressed shame splattered all over me, like the spittle from her mouth.
this makes me think of lots of things.
the first thing i thought about was when i was leaving for travel and a volunteer position overseas, in my early 20s. a few days before i left we had a huge going-away party at my house, all sorts of people from my past, families of kids i had nannied and their parents, current boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, high school friends, childhood friends. and it was fun but it was also really weird, because loads of people got really emotional and it surprised me (in my naive, youthful state) coz i kept thinking, um, i’m coming back, people! but what i didn’t know, and what some of them did, was that when i returned, i’d be an entirely different person. and they’re right, i was.
i don’t remember any tears that night of the party (very very close, though, when my ex hugged me before leaving and then started to cry in my arms…and i mean, really cry. hard.) and i’m not sure i even did when a cavalcade of people escorted me to the airport the morning i left, i was so anxious, so nervous, so scared about the assorted details of flights and luggage and would i be over the limit, etc.. it was only after i got through security, boarded the plane, took off into the air, and actually watched my hometown get smaller beneath me that it all came crashing down. the fact that i was leaving them, all of them, for an indefinite period of time. all my babies, my friends, my family…i cried the entire 2.5 hr connecting flight (which was unheard of then…more like my current version of me, although shit, 2.5 hrs is still impressive), with a sweet old couple next to me who passed me tissues and werther’s originals, alternatingly, while the tears continued to fall. once every 30 mins or so, i could feel one or the other of them, looking at me, and then they’d reach and pat my hand.
last week, i was pretty convinced that my departure from this earth would be a beneficial thing. one less burden for the people i loved, one less mess of a human being passing on her mess to others. i didn’t have a plan, not really, but i realized how much internal real estate these sorts of thoughts had been taking up, and i got terrified. angry and ashamed and terrified. i tried all sorts of things to keep everyone far away, i said awful things, i pushed them away as far as i could, i pitched my best case, but no one listened. they just sat with me, and passed me the equivalent of tissues and werther’s originals. wouldn’t let me leave. told me they loved me and would not be okay with a world without me in it. i fought it. but their love was stronger, it kept me here, again.
like so many survivors, i’m really scared about being abandoned. i’m pretty convinced that everyone will go, that i’ll wear them out entirely and they’ll have to. and then i’ll be alone, just as they always said i would be. the little one inside spins, even though she has always done it alone, why is it different? (i’ll tell you: because today’s me knows the sweet taste of presence, and it’s addictive. it’s like crack for trauma survivors). and somewhere in the eye of the storm, i realize that i don’t want to die. i just want it to stop. i want there to be quiet and days that are free from shame.
i want a departure from the usual order, please.
so, i’m still kicking. thank you for reading along. for responding. for patting my hand every once in awhile, to remind me you’re still here.
Okay the only thing this has made me think about is standing on a freezing cold train platform listening to the announcements about delayed trains and times that the are due to arrive and depart. Complete with the train announcement woman’s voice playing in my head…