two hundred & fifty five: sympathy

i don’t remember how old i was when i realized that there was a difference between sympathy and empathy, but i do remember that i identified strongly with empathy versus sympathy. to me, it seems that sympathy is a sort of passive, removed, unembodied pity for someone else’s misfortune or pain, while empathy is actually sharing in the experience of their feelings. i don’t know if we can always control how we feel, or how removed we are from feeling it. but to me, sympathy reeks of condescension, privilege, and almost like a show of emotion that is for the consumption of other people. like, oh i feel so bad for them, oh my gawwwwd, it’s just so awful. as opposed to actually feeling their pain, being able to relate to it, and wanting to connect with another human being.

i don’t know if i’m making sense at all coz i’m two gins and one gravol into my night, and because i’m sad and thinking about how my mom has had a complete and utter lack of empathy (or sympathy, come to think of it) for the fact that i’m devastated by what’s happened to me and by her rejection of my experience. and how so much was for show, even back then. it’s easy to make a show of caring, isn’t it? but to take the time and effort to connect to another human, to feel their hurt and their pain? not for the phony, or the faint of heart, or those so deeply buried in denial that they will sacrifice their own child.

 

two hundred & fifty-three: commitment

even though i haven’t posted here for a really long time, most days, i have looked at the daily word. and wondered if this would be the day i started again. if this would be the day i could scrounge together my courage to post. i know no one really has noticed, no one but me, but every day, my silence here has prickled and poked at me, mocked me, shamed me.

it has been a really, really hard go these past several weeks, friends. i am tired of hearing myself say that, but it’s been really true. again. fuck.

i have been so so ashamed for not being able to follow through on this blog. well, my follow-through on many things has been shit, but on this blog especially. because the commitment i made about writing here was to myself. it was about engaging in a routine, in a healing activity, in a daily practice. my commitment was to creativity, to get writing again, to shoot photos again. to reflect, even if just quickly, on this list of words, and what they mean to me.

and, i also committed to sharing this blog with my best friend, who lives really far away, who suffers similar pain, whose body bears similar and also different hurts, whose mind, like mine, bites and tears at itself far more often than not. i am sad that i have abandoned and failed her, too.

*

the year i fell in love with a woman, i couldn’t have wed her legally, even if i wanted to (which i didn’t; i thought marriage was a bullshit patriarchal institution and i had zero desire to do it, to the chagrin of my family and friends). back then, queer folks had commitment ceremonies. and they were emotional, and beautiful, and sad all at once, because they were unrecognized by the law. it was a political and social act with little clout.

but by the time we had shacked up and bought a cat together, all canadians could legally wed. and for the first time in my life, i wanted to get married. i wanted to bind myself to her legally. i wanted that stupid piece of paper recognizing us as a couple. i wanted to put a ring on it. i wanted to procreate and live happily ever after. i wanted to make the same public commitment to her that my friends were making to their opposite-sex partners. i wanted a wedding cake (and she wanted a different one…so we had two, haha).

it was a very good party, we were told. not for us, as our mothers only united long enough to ruin things mightily, but hey, you can’t win ’em all.

*

in my spinning and my pain, i have managed to orchestrate a divide between my young daughter and i that i fear i can’t repair. she has been going through some really hard things, and i haven’t been there for her. i have been judgmental and harsh, prickly and impatient. we argue all the time. i have not liked her very much lately, because she dares to request that i be her mom, and i can’t handle it. i haven’t been able to handle much of anything. and i see how i have failed her, how she has steeled herself against my rejection: in her body’s language, in her lack of turning to me, in the tone of her voice, in the tilt of her chin.

i have detached myself from her, from everyone i love in a variety of ways, big and small, because i have been caught in a wind tunnel of self-loathing and hurt. and i hate myself the most for doing it to her, coz she’s only little. and she has interpreted my psychic absence as disinterest about her. that she is not important. that she doesn’t matter. i hate me for it.

just now, after writing all of that, i curled around her sleeping body, and i soaked her pillow with my regret and my shame and my guilt and i whispered all the things i don’t have the courage to say to her yet, and also all the things that she doesn’t ever need to hear: my apologies. my mistakes. my fears.

and then after that, to the rhythm of her heart, i whispered my commitment to her, which is really a commitment to myself: to be gentle. to be gentle. to be gentle.

two hundred & thirty two: slope

okay wtf is with the math terms? first angles, then slope? (ps my lovely pocketbrit will surely take issue with my saying math, apparently it is maths, plural. the brits are a weird fucking people, i’m just saying.)

i’m not even sure i have a photo for this. i’m trying to think of a one…there must be at least something, somewhere. okay, but as i started to write i had a couple thoughts about hitting the slopes…shit, the last time i went downhill skiing was ten years ago, a couple months before getting pregnant with our daughter, when i went on a cross-border bus trip with my friends. highlights of the trip: not the slopes, but 1) the amazing caesars they served at the chalet, 2) the absolutely horrifyingly amazing country music bar we went to after our first day of skiing (which culminated in me hugging the toilet, i seem to remember) and 3) cross-country skiing, on our last day, where the snow sparkled like a million diamonds in the brilliant sunshine. i was sweaty yet cold, exhilerated but exhausted.

not very exciting, but it’s what i’ve got.

two hundred & twenty nine: sea/ocean

this is a huge one.

i mean, it’s the whole reason we’re here, with this blog. coz it’s where we meet, most every night; or when we’re feeling sad or scared; when we’re lonely and needing to feel close. the sea is where we go.

*

i had my first flashback in a very long while tonight. it was not expected and it was vivid and it was horrible. i was on my own with our daughter (who thankfully did not notice i was losing my shit, i was in the bath, trying to steam it all away) but i had pocketbrit with me on chat.

and, like so many times before, she stayed with me. didn’t leave. kept talking to me and the wee one. held us close, at the sea. hand in hand, she waded into to the cold water, alongside my small one who wanted to wet her feet. and then, when her little teeth chattered, pocketbrit dried her off, and got her in warm fuzzy jammies, and took her into her lap and swung with her on the porch, back and forth, back and forth, until she was asleep on her shoulder, face buried in her neck.

and then she brought her into the warm, and laid down next to her on the sofa, with the fire burning low, and went to sleep, too. after telling me a million times how proud she was, how much she loved me, and after crying her own tears for what we all had to endure.

i fell asleep with the both of them too, for a couple hours. i woke up in a dark room, with wet cheeks and a huge lump in my throat. i was dreaming, i don’t quite know what about, but it was a good sad, it was safe, there was love.

*

i truly don’t know what i’d do without our cottage at the sea. i had no idea a place in our minds could be so real, could help me feel so close to someone, so comforted, so loved.

i go there often: on my own, sometimes, but mostly to spend time with our young parts. sometimes we go to throw stones into the surf, to rage and scream. sometimes we go for long walks on the beach, small hands in larger ones, to scout for puppies we hope to steal away from their owners so to cuddle them in front of the fire. some afternoons we just go and set up puzzles on the table, or put a movie on for whoever wants to watch.

so much napping happens on the worn grey sofa at the sea. so much snuggling. and a lot of swinging on that old worn porch swing, where soft cushions and fuzzy shawls and blanket cocoons abound.

i swear it’s a real place, our place at the sea. it’s certainly real to me, and i think, to her. i can hear it, if i close my eyes. can smell the beeswax candles, the sprigs of lavender on the mantle, the wood crackling in the fireplace. i can see the gentle orange of the flames flickering on my eyelids, and can sense its warmth. and when we text each other, urging the other to tuck in, to stay close, i feel that too. and our code for i love you: two squeezes of our hands. all of it.

the sea has saved me. i don’t know how much more plainly i can say that. i don’t know what i’d do without it. and i don’t want to find out.

two hundred & twenty eight: blood

i was seriously going to write a post about menstruating, but i thought that may be somewhat off-putting.

it was bizarre that my next thought was about this shawn mendes song, because anyone who knows me will tell you that my knowledge about pop culture is pretty limited. especially current-day pop culture. but i had the main chorus of this song repeating itself in my head, and then when i went to search for the lyrics, i was struck by the depth of what he’s written, especially for a mainstream pop song. which is apparently based on his own struggle with anxiety. so i guess i’m a bit of a fan, then? of a young, hot canadian dude with ridiculous abs who also puts his mental health out there for public consumption (not that he hasn’t been rewarded heartily for it, but still.)

and then i thought about this one day when i told pocketbrit how many hours i’d slept that night (it was something terrible, like 3) and she told me it was bloody appalling. which i then imagined her saying it in my mind, and it made me laugh out loud. and i realized that it probably would sound adorable and thus i really needed to hear her actually say it, and after one thousand eye rolling emojis she actually did send me a video of her saying  bloody appalling. TWICE! (and, fyi, it is still one of my favourite videos she’s ever sent. in fact i’m still grinning like a total moron just thinking about it.)

two hundred & twenty six: angles

i actually had a series of photos in mind for this post, from a long time ago, when i was taking a photography course (more to foster creativity, not really a how-to, though goodness knows i could benefit from that!) and doing a lot of experimental (aka fucking weird) stuff. playing with depth of field, mostly, but also shooting from odd angles.

so here are some of them.

backdated from May 12/19

two hundred & twenty five: home

like many of the words on this list, this word seems innocuous at first, but then sneaks up and sucker-punches you in the stomach.

coz it seems to me that home is where your family is. or the place you grew up. where your parents live. home becomes a bit more loaded a term for people who don’t see their parents anymore, like me. (i had never before considered this, but i just realized i might not see the house in which i grew up, ever again. and my eyes filled and i’ve gotten so fucking sad about not seeing my room or my things or my old toys in the basement crawlspace or the planter that my grandfather made on the back deck and that’s ridiculous, i know it is. fuck.)

*

and home is safety, right? yeah, it’s where you live, but also, home is where the heart is. home sweet home. there’s no place like home. love makes a house a home. make yourself at home.

why do i feel like barfing?

*

one of my longtime friends from the city in which i grew up, when she’d come to visit, always commented on how we made all of our apartments so cozy, so welcoming. like a home. it always struck me as a funny thing to say but i think i know what she means now. we always had textiles and art on the wall. interesting things from our travels on display. plants spilling over shelves full of our books. photos in meaningful frames. we painted the walls to suit our taste, even when we rented. we grew flowers. dug gardens. made it our own.

even now, her house, in which she has lived for over nearly two decades, does not really reflect her. her zany sense of humour. the things she loves. it’s a space in which she lives, but i see more of her in her school classroom than in her actual home.

*

during a trip to see her good friend, pocketbrit described her house as being homely, and i thought, sheesh, that’s a bit harsh, but then it occurred to me to take a little boo at some online dictionaries. i was right to do so, coz in the UK, homely is the equivalent of homey; she meant her friend had made things warm and inviting and comfortable, whereas here, to call something or someone homely is fairly insulting and nearly means the opposite. i sent her screenshots of the two definitions and told her she’d best not tell my wife our place is homely when she comes, or she might end up sleeping in the shed. 🙂

*

in my 20s, i learned that i could make home wherever i went. that the feeling of home lived in me; that i could find it halfway across the world in the most unexpected places, at the most unexpected times. that home was a feeling as well as a physical place.

more recently i know that being loved, being seen, being known, is like coming home. i had to search to find this one quote, because it felt like it fit perfectly, but i only knew the gist of it from seeing it somewhere else. but this is what it is: “home isn’t where you’re from, it’s where you find light when all grows dark.” (pierce brown, in the second book of his trilogy) (which, full disclosure, i haven’t read.)

*

i used to make a point of calling pocketbrit’s flat home, referring to the place she grew up as your parents’ place. it was an intentional reframing of home that felt so important, somehow, and i never knew if she noticed my weird obsessive insistence on differentiating between the two. i did it because i wanted her to know that she could make home wherever she was, that she could build it, that she could be it.

a noble effort, but so silly. semantics. coz we both know that home is where you grew up. no matter how shitty, no matter who touched you in the night or how many times you were ignored or overseen, that was home. that’s what we think of. where our parents live, the place that was supposed to be safe but wasn’t.

so yeah, that’s why this word aches. because even the notion of home gets all twisted up and backwards in our bodies. and hearing it in other people’s mouths, or as a point of nostalgic reference, is yet another reminder of what we didn’t have, how different our experience was.

how much we still want the sense of being at home, of coming home, no matter how shit it was, or is still.

two hundred & twenty: closeness

sometimes, when i’m feeling really small and sad, i have this feeling of needing to be close. like, if it were possible to climb up and wind myself around someone, right up in their neck, hiding in, i would do just that. if it wasn’t weird, i would bury my face in to their softness and they would just hold me really close and we would stay there until i wasn’t so petrified, until the intense neediness for hearing their heartbeat and feeling their warmth abated.

*

i remember hugs and kisses being something that were owed to people; also something that was offered at family gatherings when people arrived or when we went to bed. it was expected. i’m sure i liked some of the kisses and hugs but really it was an assembly line, one relative after the other.

it was the same thing at home, really…before my brother and i laid side by side in his bed or clambered up into the big cushy rocking chair with a book, we’d dutifully find them to hug and kiss them goodnight, but then would tuck ourselves in afterwards.

i can’t think of many snuggles with my parents, is that weird? i do remember one time, when i had the stomach flu and was lying on my parents’ waterbed, watching tv with my mom. some awards show, i seem to recall. and i sat up suddenly, feeling horrifically sick, and threw up in a towel my mom held with cupped hands in front of me. and she didn’t get mad, she didn’t yell, she just stayed there, and held it, and that must’ve been so gross. i remember this often as an example for how she must have loved me at least a little bit.

or maybe she loved her comforter more and wanted to save it, i don’t know.

*

i do remember wanting cuddles, and getting them. my grandmother. my grade two teacher, who i loved with every inch of my seven year old heart, and who i followed like a puppy. (i adored her, i just wanted to be close to her, especially when she was on recess duty, so i could hold her hand, feel her warm next to me. she didn’t even have to talk to me. i just loved feeling her hand in mine.) a trusted family friend, who was soft all over and who smiled and called us ‘sweetie.’

*

sometimes pocketbrit takes my little one (i know i’ve said this before, it’s no surprise that after 220 days i’m getting redundant), and when she does, i often feel her leave me with an audible sort of thumping whoosh. and i don’t know if pocketbrit can feel her arrival, but her little body has the sense of being pressed so so so tight in, arms thrown around her, face pressed into her neck. my wee one doesn’t even move, it’s like she just wants to be part of someone else’s body, no space in between, so incredibly desperate.

and ugh, the hurt of it, how much we wanted closeness. how much we didn’t get it. how it doesn’t seem even possible to quench this boundless need with the love and closeness we do get today.

these are the times when i feel most tender towards her, when i feel the simplicity and rawness of her deepest desires: to be held. to be close.

and then i just want to rock her forever, never let go. poor love. poor sweet love.