this one just makes me want to swear and throw things. it makes me so, so ashamed, and it’s all mixed up in all kinds of stuff from my childhood and i just really don’t even want to write about it but i also want to keep the momentum going on the blog so i’m going to, but ugh.
and ugh again.
being greedy is interwoven so tightly for me with selfishness, another word that makes my cheeks flush with shame. wanting anything when i was little was too much, was selfish, was greedy. and what i was most greedy about, and for, was attention.
i was a teacher’s pet. i aspired to be. the moment someone i liked, or admired responded with kindness or positive attention, i bloomed. i can remember the feeling, of literally unfolding, of how my body relaxed and i would feel warm and soft and glowy. i can almost imagine it was a physical thing that happened, that i expanded somehow into the space around me.
i was desperate for attention, and was shamed throughout my life for striving to be seen, to be heard, to be noticed. it was a personal affront to my mom (and she was right to be offended, it was most certainly a commentary on her parenting) and she’d shut it down at every opportunity.
all kids are greedy. they are egocentric, they situate themselves at the centre of everything. it is necessarily how kids are, until they reach a certain age. and that natural sense of wanting the biggest slice of cake or of arguing over the larger half of the cookie or wanting the sharpest pencil crayon or holding the teacher’s hand the most times at recess was used as evidence of my selfishness and greed, to support how i was a little girl who didn’t think of others. i can feel myself shrinking even now, recalling it.
i’m really struggling to write this next part but it feels important so i’m going to try…it’s just that when i read all the definitions of greed, they mentioned food, and it upset me the most about the word, because my relationship with food is the one area i just haven’t been able to touch in therapy. and it’s fucked up, friends. a real mess.
the completely disordered way i relate to food was inherited at least in part from my constantly-dieting mom, but is also deeply rooted in trauma. i feel like i’m only starting to realize how deeply and it terrifies me. to start, i hate my body. for so so many reasons, mostly the mere fact that i have to have one, that i have to dress it, that i must attend to its needs, that i have to look at it ever, that i have to acknowledge it.
you see, my current body is the type of body my dad was always disgusted about. there was almost nothing worse you could be, than fat (which is a physical manifestation of greed and gluttony, obviously). and…over the years, i have built myself this body, i have cultivated it into my current form, as a way to defy them, as a way to challenge their love, but the thing is, i fucking hate it. like fully, absolutely hate my body. i want to be positive about it, i want to love the fact that i am soft and comfy and curvy but i don’t. i feel (and actually am) heavy, lumbering, ungainly. so so ugly. out of control, and fully broadcasting it to everyone.
everyone who looks at me can see my greed. everyone can see that i take more than my share, that i am selfish, that i am gross. that i’m screaming out for attention, daring to take so much space.
it would be one thing if having this body made me happy, or fulfilled, or proud. if i somehow reclaimed it. if i grew to love it, just as it was. that’s what we’re all meant to do, right? love and accept ourselves?
i can’t. even though i built up layers and layers around me, even though i’m safe now, even though the only person i’m punishing is myself, even though it’s not proving any points anymore. i can’t be gentle about the fact that i’ve done this to myself. that i’ve internalized their disgust so deeply that i am harming my body and my health and my appearance. that i do this in front of my daughter. i can’t love or accept any of it, it’s so incredibly sickening.
Every now and again, not very often but occasionally, when either pc or I are not doing so good, particularly if we’re little, we’ll send virtual hugs to the other (ugh if only they could be in person), and because we know how the other isn’t doing good we’ll send a really silly big number of them.
This word makes me think of how we know the other person is little and has shame roaring in their ear (because we both do this very occasionally), when whichever of us it is responds with something along the lines of I don’t need that many, I don’t want to be greedy. Its a big give away, not just that shame is noisy, but that we’re feeling too much or undeserving.
And that instantly makes me sad/mad. Because when we’re little we’re not just accepting love like little kids normally are. We’re bracing ourselves, informing people of our flaws to let them know that we don’t deserve it. As PC always says, getting ourselves before we’re gotten.
when i think of family gatherings i think of how we all used to pile into my grandparents’ house: four daughters, their husbands/boyfriends, and at that time, my brother and i plus my two cousins. fourteen people in one four-bedroom house (with one bathroom!)
us kids slept on a foam mattress on the floor in my grandparents’ bedroom. my grandfather snored something fierce and my older cousin ground her teeth. i often listened to both as i watched the moon rise, finally dozing a bit until the grey dawn of the morning, when i awoke to the rustle of my grandmother’s nightgown. that first quiet hour was sacred, as we washed our faces and hands with a bar of ivory soap and then pressed them dry with the same worn face towel, and then i’d settle into her lap, sharing bites of buttered toast from one plate while she sipped black coffee and i drank grapefruit juice, waiting for the house to wake up.
i loved the quiet starts to my days but i also loved the bustle of all of it, exploring with my cousins, picking crabapples or green onion tops or the heads off of snapdragons, rummaging through drawers, poking around in the dark mysterious basement. huge meals with giant tables stretching through two rooms. aunts and uncles playing horseshoes or lawn darts, delicious fragrant things cooking in the kitchen and on the BBQ in the driveway, grownups distracted enough that the monitoring of cookie-eating or fridge-ransacking was nearly non-existent. us kids going on adventures with my grandfather. riding along with whoever went to pick up my elderly great grandparents from the old folks home.
i loved it. i’m sure we got bored but i don’t remember that, i just remember adventures and playing and freedom.
but i wasn’t safe, even there. in all those people i got lost in the shuffle, wayward hands wandered while posing as innocent cuddles. there was too much alcohol and too much drama and the family repression was thick. gazes were averted. trespasses were glossed over. it was easy to misplace a little girl and an uncle, easy to accept the quiet behind closed doors for the disciplining of a daughter by a father.
i still don’t know how to reconcile these newer memories with the old ones. it’s like they peeled off at the edges of my consciousness, the border pieces of the mosaic-y puzzle that represents ‘april 1980’ or ‘august 1979.’ i wonder how it’s possible at the same time that i know it was.
and am suddenly so, so exhausted, needing to sleep.