this word actually reminded me of the endless lectures we got as kids, usually regarding doing our ‘jobs.’ we often got accused of having a lack of pride if we didn’t delight in our 500 chores (washing/drying/putting away dishes after every meal, vacuuming the entire house, dusting, scrubbing toilets and sinks, washing the floor, wiping mirrors, putting laundry out onto the line, taking it off, folding it), or if we didn’t do them up to their standards.
in particular, it makes me think about one of my dad’s most regular speeches about how our family was a team, and as team members, we all needed to do our part, we all needed to contribute, they worked so hard to provide all these things for us, how our laziness, lack of enthusiasm and pride in our chores was an insult to them, was proof of how we were ungrateful, selfish, spoiled kids. i can hear the pseudo-patient, long-suffering tone of his voice even now, and i simultaneously roll my eyes outwardly, while i feel my insides shrinking up.
the one persistent, childish fuck you for my apparent lack of pride was one i maintained as long as i lived in their house: i kept my room a a total mess. and even now, i tend to be more messy than tidy, and it is yet another example of the way they have a hold on me, even still. my doing the opposite of what they would do just shows how much control i continue to let them have. it’s ridiculous. insta-shame.
my parents were incredibly stingy with praise and in being proud of us. they were proud of us to other people, but rarely in earshot. they bragged about our accomplishments to their friends (as reflections on themselves as excellent parents, mostly) but were very intentional about keeping our sense of pride in ourselves miniscule. we learned that ‘getting a big head’ was one of the worst things that could happen, and any sense of self-confidence was evidence of this. compliments or praise that we shared with them, from teachers or our friends’ parents, were considered highly suspicious, and their intentions were always questioned: ‘what are they playing at?’ and ‘hmm, they’re probably just buttering you up because dad teaches their son.’ compliments paid to us when they were present were quickly batted away: ‘oh you don’t know what she’s usually like at home’ or ‘oh but you should see the state of her room’ and ‘we just wish his math grades would reflect that!’
i don’t know why they were like this. i don’t know why some pride was sanctioned but others wasn’t. i don’t know what they thought would happen if we were proud of ourselves, or if they showed that they were proud of us. we would like ourselves? we would be comfortable in our own skin? we would get better than them?
(though honestly, isn’t that the fucking goal of it all?! i think so. i desperately want our daughter to be better than us, to struggle less, to achieve more, to be happy, to be satisfied, to be loved, to be safe. i want her to be okay. i want her to be as big as she wants to be, to take up as much space as she needs, to chase whatever dreams she has, to have the hugest expanse of what is possible for her lying ahead. why would i want to curb that? why would i want her to pack herself away?)
i don’t get any of it. yet i get all of it, very intimately, because i live with its effects, every minute of my life.
i’ve just written a fairly despairing addendum to yesterday’s post, so this word is quite a contrast, and i’m not sure i’ll do it justice.
i am a playful sort of person. i delight in making people laugh, i am incredibly silly and appreciate ridiculousness (and am adept at finding it anywhere), and love when people play along with me. i am self-deprecating and although i write incredibly seriously on this site, many people in my day-to-day life would have little to no idea i was capable of it.
i keep things light, for the most part. it is my comfort zone, it is easy for me to be clever and amusing (and amused), it is a major defense mechanism to keep me safe. bathroom humour? totally in my wheelhouse. bodily function jokes/sound effects? yes, please. (it is why i am a favourite with 8-12 year old boys. and british people. right, pocketbrit?! ;))
on that note, i absolutely love making pocketbrit laugh, it is the best sound. i love teasing her, having her tease me. i love that she is so so silly, that we have that in common too, alongside all the heavy stuff. it is so important to me.
my wife and i have our own stupid language that we speak…well, not a language exactly, but a uniformly wonky sort of way we pronounce words. i have no idea of its origins anymore but it’s persisted for over a decade. sometimes our daughter will ask us to speak it to each other so she can try to emulate it (she can’t, goofy girl) and then we’ll all laugh because it’s so entirely dumb. but it always makes me smile. especially if we try to spell it as we pronounce it, it always brings a smile to my face.
and a last confession in relation to this word: i totally find myself funny sometimes. like, absolutely crack myself up. even as a kid, i would do completely silly things around my family and wait for them to notice and to say something. they would notice, but my parents in particular would often refuse to give me the satisfaction of acknowledging whatever idiotic thing i was doing, and this cracked me up, endlessly. i mean it strikes me as a bit sad, just now, but as one small example: i took the green leafy top part of a strawberry and went to dinner with it sticking out of one of my nostrils. both my mom and dad saw it but didn’t say a word. (it eventually got launched onto the table after i unsuccessfully stifled a chortle, five minutes in…)
but the game of it, the fact that i knew i was being ridiculous and inappropriate, the fact that they wouldn’t play…i don’t know. i think it’s funny. and sad, now that i write it. but mostly funny, because i guess it was one of the times when i was in on the joke, when i was controlling the situation.
I am a total list maker. I think its an affliction, sitting alongside my obscene book-buying.
For the first time ever I didn’t make resolutions this year. And by resolutions, I don’t mean stuff like ‘eat healthier’ or ‘start going to the gym three times a week’; they’re more just things I’d quite like to do during the year. I don’t berate myself if they don’t happen, I don’t take them very seriously, but I do like to look back and reflect on what my goals were and whether they happened. Sometimes I surprise myself with the things I never thought would happen, happening, and the things I thought would, not happening.
Anyway, for whatever reason, this year I didn’t. And while I’m still making plenty of lists, I haven’t really been setting myself goals like normal. Until last week, when at therapy she asked me what my goal was for the week, and I said I don’t know (really just to be belligerent; because I wasn’t in the mood to answer any questions). But then we were talking, and I told her of something I was going to try to do and she smiled and said she thought she’d found my goal for the week.
And, I did it. The first half at least, sending forms off, and as soon as I got it back yesterday I did the second part today.
And then I thought I want to do more weekly goals. They’re not necessarily big things, but just stuff I’d like to do this week. Really I suppose they’re self-care tasks a lot of the time. A reason to do stuff that is supportive to me. This week’s, for example, is to open up my sketchbook, just see how it feels, as I haven’t drawn in ages.
I like little goals like this. They make me feel good (coz I’m a simpleton like that 😉) when I do them, and I don’t get mad at myself when they don’t happen. It just is what it is. Very relaxed goals.
i am a huge list maker. like actually, on paper or on my phone, but also virtually, like in my head. a constant tally of the things i need to do, of both the banal and extremely life-altering variety.
my main goal in life used to be to be completely amazing, to be the top of my class, to win awards and accolades, to be the best. cream of the crop and all that shit.
my goal these days is to simply be enough: a good enough mom. an acceptable wife. a decent friend. i don’t need to win any awards, i just want to meet expectations and not fall short too too often. i just want to not fuck it all up.
i’m adding an addendum to this post (it’s the next day). i’ve had a royal shitpile of a day, and part of the reason is because i was waaaaaay too lighthearted about this word, and it’s been eating at me.
coz really, the word, and my memories surrounding it, made me feel a bit sick.
my goals have always been driven by a need to make up for the fact that i am an entirely disappointing human being. my lists are usually reminders of the variety of ways i need to compensate for this fact. i am not easygoing at all about my lists and my goals; that said, it would be impossible to check all the boxes on my lists because they are entirely outlandish, unrealistic, and inherently punitive.
when i was younger, my goals were very much about how to improve myself physically. when i was 11 and 12 and 13, for example, i made sure i did a bunch of sit-ups and leg lifts before bed, because i was sure i was horrifically revolting (i wasn’t) and that i needed to counterbalance my affinity for junk food. i dieted constantly, as i saw my mom do. i felt gross and ashamed about eating, my body, and food. although my body was strong, athletic, and lean, and helped me to excel in team and individual sports, what i saw in the mirror was totally different.
a lot of my goals were to excel at things, so i would impress someone, often a teacher (ugh, i am flushing with shame to write this). i wanted to be excellent because it felt good, yes, but also because i wanted desperately to be special. to be attended to. to be acknowledged. to be seen.
one of my main goals in therapy is to stop the cycle of violence…the intergenerational trauma…the perpetuating of shame. i can’t bear the thought of passing it on to my daughter, and having her pass it on to her own children. it’s kinda like, the buck stops here, fuckers.
but right now, i am suffering so much. that sounds dramatic but i’m not sure there’s a better way to put it. lately, it feels like i might drown under the weight of all the work i have yet to do. i described it to my therapist today, that it’s like being in a dark room, and someone opens the door a crack, casting a thin slice of light inwards. and when i look around me, that crack of light illuminates huge, teetering piles and collections of stuff, representing the ways that the hurts of my childhood continue to affect my present life. representing the ways in which i have internalized my parents’ voices, the ways in which i carry them with me, the ways i am complicit with shame and the ways in which i allow it to control my life.
lately, it’s all just been so, so hard. triggers in every direction, body afire, brain lit up like hundreds of landing strips for an endless stream of incoming planes. it feels absolutely impossible, feeling sure i had made progress, and then to have the door swing open to reveal towers of additional shit, boxes and boxes of stuff, piled in every corner…you can bet i’ve run out of the room, slammed the door and latched it tight, but it’s too late, i’ve seen it, i know it’s there. i know how much more there is to sort through.
and i’m not sure i can do it…i’m really not sure i can bear any of it for much longer. i’m so exhausted i can’t even cry. i can’t make goals. i can’t think of the future. i can basically hold on, moment by moment.
please tell me this isn’t all there is.
I kind of have absolutely nothing to say about this one… Sorry people.
(I am willing to compromise. And can also be a total pain in the butt when I feel like it…)
something i always used to say (i’m sure i heard it somewhere first but i don’t know where) is that there is a big difference between compromising, and compromising yourself.
that is some deep shit.
and very true.