one hundred & thirteen: gratitude

the very first thing i thought about while reading this word was this song by ani difranco. what does my body have to do with my gratitude, indeed.

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my parents expected unending gratitude for nearly everything we received. gifts. compliments. none were without strings or conditions. they were pseudo-generous; they gave things frequently, but expected to be thrown a parade in return. i remember hating that, the way they talked about people who didn’t express sufficient gratitude for what they were given, or didn’t return the favour adequately; how they seemed to give to others for the recognition, rather than out of the goodness of their hearts.

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i also just thought about all the genuine, life-giving gratitude i have for still being here. for the people who have carried me through, especially the past three years. my wife, my kiddo, my sweetest pocketbrit, my friend s, my therapist. i could never have done it alone. i don’t know how anyone does.

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i think about how how frequently i say the words ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’, often in the same breath. how i apologize for my existence and then thank people for not leaving me, for staying near, for not hurting me, for loving me. how deep my gratitude is, when i say those things, but in typing it now, how sad that is. that people sticking around, or loving me feels like something unexpected and exceptional, rather than something we all deserve.

and now i’m just fucking sad again.

 

 

one hundred & twelve: music

even though i love all sorts of music, this word made me think of attending the symphony. which i haven’t done in a decade, honestly.

for me, it is a feast for my ears…the dancing of the strings, the percussion, the richness of the brass. but also, a feast for my eyes…the glinting of the horns, the black and white of the tuxedos, the flashes of gold and silver, the quickness of fingers on bows and strings…oh oh oh.

when i was in high school and university, i used to listen to classical music through headphones (or sometimes, out loud) while i studied, to drown out the noise of my house, or the distractions of the study hall or library. and more often than not, i would find myself conducting, especially if it was mozart…my pen lax in my hands, my eyes closed, my expression rapt. embarrassing but true.

and i do it still, am unable to concentrate entirely on the conversation if there is classical music playing in the background. i know people sleep to it but for me, it is how i awaken, how i feel alive.

one hundred & one: honesty

here’s some honesty:

  • i have cried nearly every day the past two weeks. and, i mean, ugly cried. not just a few tears but full-on, with snot and sobbing
  • my parents have never known who i am, and they never will
  • i can’t wink both eyes – only one of them. i thought this was normal. it is not
  • i have never felt so alone, and also so held, in such a short span of time
  • i love pocketbrit
  • i am missing the gene that makes me love christmas
  • that said, i’ll never say no to a christmas dinner
  • i am amazed at how trauma hurts in such new and different ways. just when i thought i’d felt all the feelings, there are more
  • every time i read the word honesty i heard this natalie merchant song in my head…with the wrong word (ie honesty vs jealousy) instead, god i’m a doofus

one hundred: diligence

i searched for the definition of this word, coz i like to see if how i understand it is how others do. (also i like to compare canadian and british definitions, just coz.) (canadian ones are far superior of course.)

the most common definition is about showing care or conscientiousness to one’s duties, and is the one i had in mind. but the one definition i encountered that hit me square in the solar plexus is that being diligent means that you are earnest, and try to do everything right. hello, welcome to my life (and my recovery from trauma).

probably every school report card from kindergarten to high school called me a diligent student, and i was, and i am, a hard worker. it matters a great deal to me for me to be careful in word, and in deed, and throughout my life – including as recently as last week, in a work evaluation – people comment on it.

coz it’s true, painfully so. i work so hard, all the time, to know what the right thing is for all the people around me, all the situations around me. for me, showing love includes knowing what to do, what to say, how to be present. getting it right, hitting the mark, is what drives me, is what i strive for.

and so, when i miss? dear god.

my worst shame, the very very darkest and scariest thing that it says, is that i won’t get it right, not ever. that i can’t, no matter what. that i won’t, because i’m too selfish and stupid, because i could never, because there is something just so wrong about me that i would never even be able to know. and that this core inadequacy is unforgivable. that i will drive everyone away and be alone, as people as disappointing as me deserve to be.

my hands shook typing that, all of the truths of my shame. the truth about me, the truth about diligence: that i can try all i want, but it doesn’t matter.

all of it served to me in my mother’s voice, with her the mist of her hissing spitting s’s landing all over my face.

**this post was actually written on jan 13/19 but backposted to the day the word came out**

ninety-nine: constant(s)

as long as i can remember, i have had an ongoing sort of to-do list in my mind. i’m also a list-maker on paper, but the one in my mind is something else. included on it are things i need make up to people. a ledger, of sorts, of debits and credits, that paralyze me with guilt. it is a constant, perpetual, loooooong list, dating back decades, in some cases. i don’t think i could ever get to the end of it.

some people would call this a manifestation of anxiety. i guess it is. but for me, it’s also a manifestation of  shame, of a mind that was constantly trying to anticipate where i could go wrong, and to right it when i inevitably did. if i was stupid enough to make a mistake, i needed to make up for it forever, and i mean for. ever.

when i am stumbling around in the wilderness of shame, as i have been lately, this list is everywhere. a blaring marquee in my mind, in black and white all-caps, with spotlights. projected onto the backs of my eyelids at night. and i hear it everywhere, too, like it’s a script everyone knows, a litany of my wrongness.

i don’t even know who i would be without it, except i’d really like to find out.

**this post was actually written on Jan 12/19 but backdated to the day the word came out**

 

ninety-eight: weak

so, i’ve been absent here lately. like so absent. hanging on by a literal shred, and only barely, at that. watching the days dawn and then set, seeing the daily words increase in number as my shame becomes a constant taste in my mouth, a burn in my eyes, a stone in my gut…

(a quick aside: the first phrase that came to mind was hanging on by the skin of my teeth except, ummmm, gross, i don’t have tooth skin, do you? i mean where did that saying even come from?!)(i know. i could google it. but it’s squicking me out.)(okay fuck i googled it. and it’s biblical, from the book of job. sorry god for saying fuck so much, amen.)

this word has come to mean a lot to me because of how much it hurts pocketbrit, because of the shame it carries, because of how deeply it injures her, over and over again. generally, i have a more visceral response to being strong (or not being strong) rather than weak (so you can imagine i was ever-so-delighted to see this word come up in the rota of words i’ve ignored for two weeks) but over time, this word has become meaningful because of my love for my friend. and it makes me so, so sad.

it makes me sad because i know there are some parts that are convinced she is weak, and that her own mother planted, fertilized, and tended to this belief, for years and years (i literally want to spit when i think of that woman, for not seeing her beautiful, smart, sweet, kind daughter. for not protecting her. for looking the other way. i hate her with the hatred of…i don’t even know, just a lot. she hurts my friend so, so much. i don’t even have the words for the level of disregard, and disgust, and anger i have for her.) it makes me sad because i know how fully this conviction is steeped in her cells, how small it makes her feel, how helpless and alone. feeling hurt is weak. asking for help is weak. crying is weak. being vulnerable is weak. sharing blame with others is weak. letting people close is weak. loving and being loved is weak.

and being weak feeds the huge fucking maw of shame, makes it roar so loud the only possibility seems that you will get swallowed up, you will die. i have that shame too, it is fed by different things, but oh god, i know the terror of it, i feel his breath even now on the back of my neck…

and yet…and yet, my lovely pocketbrit has done all of those ‘weak’ things, especially this past year. has fought through and around the shame, has believed me enough to let me in. to let me close. to let me love her, and to love me back. to tell me her hurts, to ask me for help. to stay with me when she wants to run. to tell me when i’ve hurt her heart. to cry with, and for, and to me. to go to therapy, to tell her therapist some of the awful, horrific things she has had happen to her. to be vulnerable.

she has done it all. all the while sure that she is the worst, that she is the most awful, the stupidest. all the while with that goddamn shame in her ear, with the meanest of mean dreams playing as she sleeps, with memories and sensations wracking her body as she wakes up every day and works to funnel the chorus of voices telling her how wrong and horrible and weak she is.

that’s not weak. to me, that’s amazing. she’s amazing. this is the hardest fucking stuff, and she does it, every day.

no kidding she wants to die sometimes, who wouldn’t?! jesus. enough, already. she’s already been hurt so so much. she deserves a break. a really big one, a really peaceful one, where she is actually able to feel, without the impediment of shame, how loved and adored she is, how important she is to the people in her life.

[25 minute break to cry] [sorry, i’m a bit little]

okay. so.

today it feels all the sadder because i hurt her last night, i wasn’t there for her and for her wee one, and it was awful for us both. i know that happens sometimes. i know it will happen again. but i don’t want her to stop doing all the things she thinks are weak with me. i want her to stick around long enough to realize how very strong, and powerful, and amazing she is. i don’t want to fertilize the idea that she is weak, unwanted, unloved.

that couldn’t be further from the truth for me. and i am fighting shame so hard today, trying to grow up bigger and bigger, so i can tell her without crying (not that she minds me crying, but dammit, i just want to do it without tears and without the terror of my little one), how proud i am of her, how much i need her and love her, and how not weak she is. how much she has grown, how much i admire her, how glad i am to walk with her through all of it, even when it hurts. i know she might not believe it but i want to say it just the same.

**this post was actually written on Jan 11/19 but backposted to the date of the word**

ninety-six: empathy

sometimes i wish i had less of this. it would make things more simple. less hurty. more easy to tell what is mine and what is yours. there are some days that it seems that i can feel all of the pain, where i look at my wife and my kid, at pocketbrit, at my friends, at people in the grocery store, and their hurts are like a thousand little darts into my heart. i see their pain, and it hurts me, so much.

and how i got this way, ugh. and then ugh again. it was trained into me from a young age, and it was functional, of course, served as protection. i mean, not actually, i still got hit and violated, but how much more would it have happened if i didn’t know how to read others? if i didn’t value how other people felt, couldn’t see things from their perspective?

as messed up as it sounds, it is one of the vestiges of being raised by the family i had that i wouldn’t trade. despite how often they criticized it (while simultaneously benefiting from it), how often i was seen as being too sensitive. i don’t want to be any way else. i don’t want to be checked out or unaware of your hurt, of your joy. i want to know it, i want to feel it, i want to be with you through whatever it may be…because honestly, how else are we meant to live?

 

ninety-five: patience

i’m totally dating myself (again), but this song.

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i feel like patience is one of those things i work at all the time, but fail at fairly often. plus, i am not very consistent about it; i have nearly endless patience for some things and most people, but am impatient with myself about nearly everything.

i looked up the definition of patience, and yeah, where i fall short is in the not getting annoyed part. most definitions say something along the lines of bearing problems/delays/suffering whist suppressing annoyance/anxiety, and not complaining. yeah i don’t think i do that all that well. i think i have compassion for others, but i’m not sure i can say that i am always able to swallow my annoyance, or refrain from complaining, at least inwardly. and the synonyms of this word make me feel even less like it applies to me: forbearance (i think only ancient stuffy british people would use this word anyway), stoicism (um, noooope), self-restraint (bahahahahahah)…

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but after goofing around on the internet looking at various definitions of the word, wikipedia, of all places, provided a definition i really liked, and that i could consider may apply to myself. which was that patience was the level of endurance one has before negativity sets in. i thought, yeah. okay. i do have patience about a lot of things, then. still not so much myself, but yeah.

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i’m pretty sure that this word also refers to the single-player card game that pocketbrit, and others like her, would call patience. on this (morally superior and obviously correct) side of the pond, we call it solitaire…coz it’s a solitary game, makes sense. i invite you, pocketbrit, to defend yourself and your countrypeople on this one. i will give you strimmer vs weedwhacker, but you have to concur that solitaire makes more sense than patience!! (i know you will not concur, as it pains you to agree with me…but COME ON)