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.

Apart (118)

Sometimes I get so dammed mad and jealous that pc and I are so far apart geographically. Like, I’m a total jealous pain in the arse when other people get her in person and I’m stuck way over here. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what she says, or how genuinely she means it, she is just too far away for me to feel her care. It doesn’t feel enough. It drives me mad that the one person who actually claims she cares (and she does care, to be clear) and would hug me, be close and gentle and loving, is too fucking far away to prove she’d actually do it in person. Like, what good are words when everybody close enough to have to prove their words has told me different? Has not touched or hugged me, has not cared?

And then there are other nights, like tonight, where her words make me feel like I’m right next to her, like I can feel the things she’s saying, like I can feel my head leant against her side. These days make me feel sad too for some reason that I can’t completely pinpoint yet. I know she means it, I feel it, I feel her. And it’s more than I could ever ask for, and somehow I feel both so far apart from her, and yet right there next to her. I feel both simultaneously (and yes, I’m aware that makes zero sense). But I do. I long to really actually be in the same room, and yet I can feel it from here, it’s warmth and safety and gentleness. I feel close, really close. And that bit feels very very good. 💜

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.

twelve: gentleness

over the past three years, this has been one of the words that nearly always makes me want to cry. just the idea of it, the sound of it, the feeling of the word in my mouth, is enough to get that sparkling feeling in my eyelids. but also, being held gently. touched gently. looked at with gentle eyes. gentleness in general, but especially, the idea of being gentle with myself.

i remember actually doing a google search a few years ago on how to be gentle to yourself. because i had no fucking clue. i read through it all voraciously – i really needed to understand these search results, the why of it, the how, all of it – it seemed my life depended on it. i remember this article coming up during my search, and i printed it off and carried it with me until really recently. it grew tattered, stained, with the ink faded along the folds, but even now, these words are a lullaby to my soul.

i’m marginally better at gentleness with my self, these days, and part of that has been about embracing the younger parts of me, the terrified little one who is just desperate to be loved and held and to have her big big feelings contained. who just wants safety, care, presence, and steadiness. who did not have a lot of gentleness at home. in fact, she had more than her share of sternness, brusqueness, and ‘toughening up.’ she is tough, so tough, but she just needs some softness. we all do, i think.

*

i also have my daughter to thank for helping to connect me to my wee one. for facilitating my learning these useful, life-saving skills for the child in me. for grounding me, for demonstrating how kids are, how they think, and what they need.

sometimes, when i’m able to stay adult in the midst of a difficult fury-storm with her, when i can listen to all the outlandish things she says, as she rages and stomps and pummels me with unfair words, if i open my arms, she will just fall in, limp, melting into my embrace, soaking my shirt with her sorrow.

as much as possible, i want to be her safe space to land. i want to become what i never got, both for her and for me. i want to gentle us both into stronger, softer people.

*

today, i was at the hairdresser, and at one point, in the midst of doing her job, she stroked my cheek (i think in sweeping my hair away) and tears sprung to my eyes. why would she be so gentle with me? also today, in the middle of getting a hug from my therapist, after a hard session, she said (softly, entirely unexpectedly and without provocation) that she loved me. my knees nearly buckled from the love in it.

i could listen all day to people criticizing me and manage to deal with that. but gentleness is my undoing.

*

in searching for a poem i was sure i wrote on the topic (which i haven’t found…pocketbrit, have i ever sent you such a thing, on gentleness?!), i found pages and pages (and pages) of times when pocketbrit and i used the word gentle with each other.

nearly always, being gentle with her is second nature to me. i want to be gentle to and with her, because i adore her, and it is one of the easiest things to do (especially with little pockebrit, the sweet little imp that she is, with two of the brightest, saddest eyes i know).

but just a few days ago, i was not gentle with her, nor was i gentle with myself. instead of not siding with the meanness of our pasts, instead of not contributing further to our suffering, i added my voice to the mix, helped feed Shame and Fear until they got so big they swallowed us both up. and, as you can imagine, it was fucking terrible. sent myself spinning, helped to send her spinning, both of us into orbit, far away from each other’s galaxies. into the lonely, dark depths of our pasts.

i have missed her dearly. we are making our way back, heavy with regret, cloaked in guilt, still shrugging off the vestiges of shame for the words we chose, the actions we were compelled to take, the choices we made. with oceans of sad in our hearts for the conflated hurts and traumas we carry, and how they veil our eyes and prevent us from knowing the truth.

so, i’m ending this night at the sea, alongside her slumbering form, and i’m gently smoothing the hair away before i kiss her foreheard goodnight. very quietly, nearly under my breath, i am saying my favourite part of max ehrmann’s poem ‘desiderata’:

…be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.