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.

 

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.

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.

forty-seven: pain

i haven’t much wanted to write this one, either.

it’s just…this one little four-letter word cannot even begin to capture the experience of remembering what i did, nearly three years ago. it doesn’t even start to cut it, represent it, describe it.

it doesn’t cover the far-reaching loss of relatives, friends, and acquaintances i’ve experienced since then, the isolation. the whole-body pang when i hear the word family. the three father’s days and mother’s days i’ve endured since then. the putting-up with the continued mindfuckery by text and email. the depth of guilt for not knowing how to negotiate a relationship with my parents for our young daughter (and the original panic of ohmygodohmygoddidhehurthertoo). the boundaries we’ve had to put in place for her protection, without being able to answer her angry questions as to why they are there.

the interruptions to intimacy within my marriage. the countless nights i’ve sobbed into my pillow, soundlessly and at top volume and most everything in between. the ways it has manifested itself in my body, through physical illnesses and symptoms i’ve never had before. the impact on our finances, as i pay people to help me clean up the mess that was left in my body, in my inner child, in my life. the way i’ve questioned my parenting. the self-loathing. the self-loathing. the self-loathing.

the terrifying, whispery refrain that burbles up every so often that everyone would be better off if i wasn’t here. that i would be doing everyone a favour. the way that i have believed those horrible words, that i have considered them so closely, more than i care to admit.

and one of the grossest aspects of this pain is that i am not alone in it. it is shared, among so many millions of us. people i know and people i don’t. people i love, like pocketbrit, and people i don’t love at all. the stories are varied but the exquisite, soul-shattering experience of it? is not even remotely unique.

there is no comfort in this.

just tears and tears and tears.

forty-six: order

i am not a very orderly person.

in fact, the mere suggestion that things be in a particular order drives me around the bend.

i know it is ridiculous of me. and i do not refuse to follow any order, only that order upon which people insist. i follow the law, for instance, and i don’t mind rules; i adhere to the lay of the land, and i am a fairly moral person, i’d say.

but i don’t like people telling me what to do, and in what manner. nope nope nope.

forty-five: earth(ly)

sorry friends, it’s another musical association.

one of my favourite sarah harmer songs is uniform grey, and in one of the verses it mentions her being in an airplane, “high above [her] earthly pain”…and that’s stuck with me. in fact i think of that line every time i fly, wondering if this is the trip i’ll be able to leave it all behind.

but then, as i wrote that, i thought about earth, like the rich black earth in which we plant things. i thought of its smell and about both of my grandparents, who had huge vegetable and flower gardens and spent every year from april to october on their knees, digging, planting, weeding, tending, harvesting. in particular i remember my grandmother’s hands, earth under her nails, in the kitchen. her apron smelling of dirt and of dill and onions. of love.

forty-four: honour

i opted to go with a sweeter association to this word (i did have a few other not-sweet associations) because it was my first thought when i read today’s word, and i’ve been singing the song in my head for a bunch of the day.

it’s a girl guide/girl scout song, and i picture not only the earnest little faces of my daughter and her troupe as they sang it recently, but also, the shadowy, firelight-speckled faces of girls of all ages and sizes, from years ago, when i worked at a summer camp. this was often one of our last songs of the evening, when only the glowing embers were left, and usually a couple of us would sing a descant along with the melody of the song, and it was so, so pretty and pure and lovely.

here are the four verses that i know best…i know there are more, and it’s entirely possible there are regional differences in the tune and how it’s sung, too, but i learned it this way.

on my honour i will try / there’s a duty to be done, and i say ‘aye’                                      there’s a reason here, for a reason above / my honour is to try, and my duty is to love

people don’t need to know my name / if i hurt someone, then i’m to blame                                if i help someone, then i’ve helped me / and that’s the way that it should be

repeat 1st verse

i’ve tucked away a song or two / if you’re feeling low, there’s one for you                                  if you need a friend, then i will come / there’s plenty more when i come from

repeat 1st verse

friendship is the strangest thing / if you keep it to yourself, no reward will it bring               but you gave it away, and you gave it to me / and from now on great friends we’ll be

repeat 1st verse

this is pretty close to the one i learned…slightly bigger scale than at my summer camp, though. 😉

forty-three: sky

i have long been fascinated by the sky.

while i was swinging, as a little girl, i aimed my feet up high, sure i could eventually reach. daydreamed about it, when i wanted to get lost in an inner world, when i wondered at the meaning of infinity. have tried to capture it, everywhere in the world i travelled, from behind the lenses of cameras but also, in my mind’s eye. the few times i paint or use pastels or try to pretend i know what i’m doing with shading, it’s always the sky i go after, and nearly always, a sunset.

i also have endless photos, from a fairly young age, looking up to the sky from below, beneath trees, branches reaching out, clouds and blue in between. i love canopies of trees, can think of several over the course of my lifetime that i can call up *like that* (i just snapped my fingers as i wrote that, what a weirdo) in my mind. my first university campus. spokane, washington, over a swinging bridge. the road that leads down to my therapist’s house. my favourite hiking trail.

i can recall the day i remembered the first instance of sexual abuse by my father: a room with mirrors on the ceilings and walls (it was the late 70s, you know) and my desperation to avert my eyes. i was likely three or four, best guessed by what i could see from my vantage point (e.g., i was approximately eye level with the dresser and laundry hamper), but also, what i could see out the window. namely, my view of the sky, and the top halves of trees.

when i remembered the many times i looked out at the sky and those trees (in every season), i wanted to tear up every picture i had of treetops and sky, they made me sick, what the everloving shit was i memorializing that for?! and one of the two therapists i was seeing at the time listened to me rage, and then said gently, ‘that sounds like a future art exhibit to me.’

so…it’s not quite an exhibit, because frankly, yesterday’s post was a mere preview to a completely hellish, shame-filled day and i’m not going to dig them up and collate them in any sort of artful way…but here are just a few of the skies i’ve tried to capture.

because you know what, i’m reclaiming the sky. fuck them. they’re not taking that, too.

 

 

forty-two: pleasure

i’ve been dreading writing this all day.

and in fact, spent the latter portion of the afternoon completely activated while trying not to be, my body afire, wanting to tear out of my skin. culminating in shaking and sobbing in my bathtub and then in my bed with my stuffed dog clutched tight under my chin. oh and i did some butterfly hugging in there a couple times too (i really need to re-name this, coz it annoys the everloving shit out of me that something this flighty-sounding works as well as it does when i’m panicking and triggered) (i’ll wait while you google it). and, as i so often do (poor woman), i sent out SOSs to pocketbrit, who, thankfully, was there, being her usual loving, anchoring self. who, along with time, and my steady, gentle wife, calmed me enough so i could sleep it off. i only slept an hour but so deeply, and it reset things, somehow, and i woke up with my body and mind quieter.

and i don’t even know exactly what it was, except i suspect that the whole show was not helped by virtue of just reading this word. there was instant shame, a jolt in my body.

because all mixed up in the pain and horror of it is also pleasure. is also, bodies responding. both in the remembering of it, and possibly at the time. and this feels so gross, because i was a little girl when it started…both pocketbrit and i, we were both so so small when our bodies were violated by the men in our families. and fuck, we shouldn’t have known about any of it, especially not at that age, by those people.

and because sometimes, when my body remembers things, it tingles, throbs, invites me to explore it. feels kind of good. and then god, the shame, the fucking instant hot lava of shame because what kind of revolting girl…?! i mean i didn’t enjoy it, how could i, i didn’t know what the fuck was happening so much of the time, but sometimes my body did respond. i certainly knew from a very young age what felt good, and masturbated all over the place. ugh it makes my face burn now because i didn’t even try to hide it. (but also, did not a single aunt or grandparent or my mother, perhaps, ever wonder about why a toddler was doing that?! was anyone awake at all?)

it’s gross and shameful and awful to begin with but add the fact that my stupid fool body gets in on it…how are we not supposed to hate ourselves for that? how are we ever meant to have a normal sexual life ever again?