seventy-three: sweep

i actually have no clue why we picked such a stupid word. i mean, it’s not something we can draw, it’s not something easily photographed, and who the hell has associations with this word at all?! argh.

the image that does come to mind is windswept hair…has a somewhat romantic feel to it. apple-cheeked, tousled locks, tossed around by the wind, yet somehow still attractive. in other words, nothing like how i look lol.

 

day seventy-one: freedom

at various points in this journey (extra long eye roll at that euphemism), particularly as i was railing against the injustice of it, or in a particularly deep pit of grief, i would sometimes think, you know what, fuck this. i don’t need to keep wallowing in this crap. i just need to pull up my bootstraps and get through it, you know? get over it. stop making our lives so miserable and just cut it out. and each time i’ve said those things (actually, usually i’ve shouted them, on the sofa across from my therapist) – i’ve then sat there, eyes ablaze, chest heaving, eyes streaming, fists clenched, ready to challenge everything that came out of her mouth. and pretty much very time, she would say, with such sadness and compassion, no, sweetie. that’s not how you get free from this. being mean is never the right answer. being gentle always is.

and the concept of freedom always gave me pause. i think it was because i didn’t often think in these terms: being free versus being bound or imprisoned (although jesus, why not, it’s a pretty fucking apt description)…and then, it just didn’t seem like something for which i could hope or see as being possible for me. i mean, what would freedom mean? what would it look like? how would it feel? so much of the time, i walk around feeling like i’m a raggedy, rat-gnawed shell in the shape of a woman, a fraud of a human being. how could freedom apply?

over time, however, i began to crave it. i will never be free of this experience, i cannot take away what happened to me. but the shame, oh. if i could be free from some of this shame…if i could hear the word ‘family’ without feeling choked, or if i could just bask in the affection and adoration from the people who see me, and love me, if i could stop my descent into the dizzying spirals of shame…that feels like freedom. i mean, the shame’s not ours, is it? it was given to us, inserted and splashed and threatened and shoved and suffocated into us, and we’ve been carrying it, our bodies bent and bruised and battered. haven’t we held it enough? please, let’s give it back.

*

earlier today, my friend asked a question about whether i valued happiness and thought it was achievable. she was asking because we had been talking about our kids, and on the kind of life we hoped they’d have (and the one we were trying to give them). she said that her eldest sister thinks that the purpose of life is to leave a mark, to contribute, but that she feels that striving towards happiness is more important. i said that i wasn’t sure about happiness as a goal, that it seemed a bit overrated; that i definitely thought life was far more than about bettering the world…and then i surprised even myself by saying that really, what i wanted was to be okay with however i was, at any given time, in any given moment. that however it felt to me, whether it was horrible or joyful or hard or wonderful, that i could accept that as the truth for me. that I could just let things…it…myself…just be. and that that was what i wanted to pass on to my kiddo.

the more i spoke, the more i realized how true it was. that for me, freedom will be standing strong in myself. knowing that however i feel is fine, and okay: no matter how different it might be from how others feel. i want to be free from the me i’ve been for so long: from the judgment i absorbed, from the shame, from the awful endless convictions that there is something wrong with me. the very stuff that got me so strong that i am still here. the same stuff that was the lullaby of my toddlerhood, the soundtrack to my life. i want freedom from that.

sixty-nine: spicy

i love spicy things: people and food and smells.

i want to talk about food most of all…i am out of town visiting my friend this weekend, and she gave me the option of a spicy or non-spicy version of one of the dishes, and i will pretty much always choose spicy. and, the hotter it burns the better; the more it makes my eyes water and brings a flush to my cheeks, the happier i am.

sixty-eight: inspiration

really the thing i kept coming back to (despite not wanting to) was how my therapist used this word in relation to me this week. it has made me squirm all week, because i’m just not, full stop, that’s ridiculous. that said…because it was her that said it, because i love and trust her words and integrity, because i know she meant it and said it with such love and respect…i can’t ignore it entirely and i hate that. i’m curious but also sort of mad that she said it, because i don’t want to know why, but i also sort of do, because it’s so outlandish a claim. it feels too huge a word to apply to me when i’ve done nothing to deserve it.

plus it is making shame noisy and then i get sucked in to that whole shame spiral, because why can’t i just take a compliment already, ffs she was just being lovely. but ugh, it’s so out there, and weird and extreme. and i don’t want that pressure, i don’t want to be an inspiration and i’m just not.

(also, please please don’t anyone comment about your thoughts on my being this word. i’m not digging for compliments, i honestly feel so so squirrelly about it, i’m just hoping by writing it down i’ll get it out of my head.)

sixty-seven: hate

i feel immobilized by this one. i’ve started writing this entry and i just can’t seem to stop, but it’s really a big scary stream of consciousness so i need to. i’m going to leave it right now…please believe i’ll be back.

sixty-five: stupidity

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.

sixty-four: departure

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 yo: 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.

sixty-three: control

if there’s nothing i’ve learned a million times, it’s that i have no control over any of this trauma shit. when new memories will come and flatten me. when the tsunami of grief will crash into my shores, filling my lungs and streaming from my eyes. when i will be rendered young and scared, unable to cope with the daily expectations of motherhood and spousehood and adulthood. when something that was previously inert and neutral could become triggery. when i’ll hear some stupid fuck on the news, crapping on the #metoo movement or sharing some horrifying ignorant commentary on the latest sexual abuse scandal in the US, when suddenly, i’m being eaten alive by shame.

i hate it. the pendulum of it, and how unexpectedly it swings from one extreme to the other. will there actually come a day where i’ll be more moderate, more centred, less reactive? it feels impossible, from here.