two hundred & sixty one: fight

i don’t know why i didn’t think of this word in terms of arguing…i mean, there was a lot (a LOT) of fighting that went on in my childhood, between my parents, between us kids, between parents and kids. and goodness knows i’ve had some awful fights with pocketbrit.

but what this word made me think of was the the sense of fight we have in us. as in fight or flight. as in, that instinct that kicks in, that lights a fire in us. that sense of fight that sometimes ebbs away, when we become very old or very sick or very hurt.

*

the first association i had was to a song i really love, and i don’t really know why i love it like i do, why it speaks to me like it does. it was maybe when i heard it? what i was going through at the time? i don’t know. but the chorus of the song says “take me to the bar/where a sweet voice in the back of my skull, says/take me to the bar/and see if i can fight…take me to the bar/where a sweet voice in the back of my skull, says/take me to the bar/and straight to bed all night.”

and i guess i just pictured someone who had just been through a really, really hard time. who has not been up to their usual tricks, who had been on their own, who had not been themselves. and they are asking to be taken out for the night, as a test almost, to see if they can do it. if they still have that spark, that fight. and then, knowing how difficult it might be, that they’ll go home, exhausted, to fall straight to sleep.

i could relate to that, i guess. that sort of testing of oneself. in the early days, i felt like that a lot, about nearly everything. how will it be to go to the grocery store, driving a car, taking a shower, getting my hair done, getting a pap test, knowing what i know? how will it feel to work? how will i mother? what will it be like to see my old friends, the ones who knew my parents? will i still take on ignorance, like the person at the bar in the song? can i still fight?

everything felt different after remembering, every single thing, although i looked exactly the same in the mirror, and i couldn’t guess how i might be with it all. i’m still figuring it all out.

*

last summer or maybe fall, pocketbrit and i wrote a scenario (and then recorded it) about our first meeting at the sea; i wrote the first day, and she wrote the second day. in them, i came to her, and we rented a little cottage from a little old lady who left us her two dogs. we slept in two twin beds in a loft at the top of the cottage, and went for walks with the woofers, read, drank gin and tonics, took turns cooking meals, went and retrieved my lost luggage at the airport, and just got to know each other.

in her scenario, while we watched the sun set from the porch swing, i fall asleep against her shoulder. when she shifts, i wake up in that utter jet lagged confusion that comes when you don’t expect to fall asleep, and she puts a cushion on her lap, and pats it, and without any fight, i lay my head on it, and go straight back to sleep.

i don’t know why it’s my favourite part of that recording, when she says that. but i love it. just the thought that i could (and would) do that, the trust in it? her gentleness? i don’t know. but it brings a lump to my throat, tonight.

*

our old tabby cat’s life force has been wavering for months, but now, it is close to his time. the sass and the fight has left him, in his wake only a bony, confused body, cloudy green eyes, matted fur. he doesn’t clean himself anymore. he seems to forget where his litter box is, and is starving all the time (or has forgotten that he has just eaten?) he can’t jump or chase anymore. we used to delight in teasing him (and having him tease us back) but not now. he spends his days following us around, meowing plaintively. napping in odd places. still wants us close but not always sure how close.

but he still purrs, so so loud. and he still lets us hold him like a baby, and blinks his eyes slowly when we talk to him. we’re giving him all the bacon and yogurt he wants. we just mop up after him. we don’t want to argue. our fighting days are long over.

 

backposted, written june 16/19

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 & 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.

one hundred & seventy six: healing

the first thing i thought (and then wrote) was: never-ending.

shoulda left it there, but no, i decided to take a little lookie-loo on google. idiot idea.

healing…

(via merriam-webster): to make free from injury or disease. to make sound or whole

(via wikipedia) (i know, i know, not the best authority on anything, but…): the process of the restoration of health from an unbalanced, diseased, damaged or unvitalized organism

there were others, but those kicked me in the gut sufficiently.

to make sound or whole. to restore health from a damaged organism. fuck.

to re-establish a life, to revitalize. sure, okay.

i don’t know why it’s hurting so much to read all of that, i don’t have the words to describe how impossible it all feels. and to summarize all that has been lost, has been ‘unvitalized’ (is that a word, even?), to look out upon the landscape of what needs restoration and think, holy fuck, do i even have enough life left to do it?

where will this pain live, when i’m 50 or 68 or 91 years old? where will it have settled? will i be whole?

one hundred & thirty nine: family

today, this word is not much hurting me. but many times, it does. honestly, it’s like the new f word in my life, and more times than not, makes me want to spit and scream and cry, makes my insides all watery and sick. coz i want it. i want it so badly. so badly i wonder if one desperate day i’ll just retract all of it, like the false memory syndrome people say we all will.

nearly every time i hear this word, i feel orphaned, small, and alone. because no matter what, the truth is that i have no parents, not anymore. i don’t have a mom, or a dad. i mean yeah, they’re alive…but not in my life, they’re not. the pain of that feels like it won’t ever fade because no matter how okay or how good i am, no matter how much healing i do, no matter how much i know that it’s not my fault and no matter how much they continue to disappoint me…i still want it. not them, specifically. but i miss the idea of family, i bought into it hook, line, and sinker. that sense of history, those people who knew you back when, the people who are meant to hold you, stay with you, be yours forever, the people you see for holidays and birthdays and special occasions. i feel the absence of it all the time.

this word holds shame, as well, because i do have a family – my wife, my daughter, beloved friends (looking at you across the pond, my lovely) and even my in-laws. but my family of origin, relatives, and extended family i had growing up…are dead (either literally or figuratively), or faraway, or rendered faraway by the big gross secret i’ve been keeping.

it is a lonely, isolating experience. to have chosen this, in some sense, but having so much grief, shame, and hurt about it. i wonder all the time whether i will come out the other side.

one hundred & twenty: release

like people around the globe, we have been on the instant pot train for a couple years now. i love that appliance, i really do, and if you’re thinking of buying one, i’d say you should. (no this post is not sponsored. i don’t even know how i would go about getting it sponsored. and no, am not interested in finding out). (oh and ps, it was invented by a canadian, pocketbrit! which i’m well aware will instantly incite disdain and eye-rolling, you predictable ridiculous woman.)

but why i thought of my instant pot was because there is this thing on it called a release valve. when you are using the pressure cooking function you can wait for things to cool down (a “natural” release), or you can hit the valve, and in an instant, all of this hissing steam comes blasting out of the lid, fogging your windows, and filling your house with the smell of whatever you’re cooking.

and somehow, yesterday, i seemed to have hit an internal release valve, except what came pouring out was grief.

it took me by surprise – not the grief per se, that had been there, simmering in the background, after a series of difficult texts with my mom, whose main purpose in life seems to be to remain clueless about difficult things and to undermine anyone who challenges her cluelessness. i had just been grocery shopping, and the tears had threatened close while i was there, as i texted with pocketbrit, but were easily blinked away. i parked my car in my driveway, clicked the ignition off, and was going to open the door to get out, when i started sobbing. full out, full on. no particular precipitating thought or reason for it, just pure, unfettered anguish. and so, i burrowed my chin into the beautiful soft scarf pocketbrit knit me, and let it out.

my grief fogged up my car windows. the wet on my cheeks felt so cold, and my feet froze in my boots as i sat and waited for its waves to subside. had i not been startled by a sensor light turning on suddenly at the side of our house, i may have sat there even longer, my breath ragged, my voice not even seeming my own. but as quickly as it started, it sort of stopped, and i made four chilly trips in and out of the frigid black evening to bring in the groceries, and then started to unpack them.

my daughter didn’t see my face, but my wife did, right away. and she put her hand on my arm, wanting to draw me into her, but the thought of it made my eyes well up again and i choked out that i couldn’t, not just yet. i poured myself a cold glass of water, hoping to swallow the lump in my throat, but instead my eyes spilled over and i could feel another wave coming, so i excused myself into my room, and i muffled my sadness into my stuffed dog and my pillow for i don’t know how long. and eventually, the waves became ripples, and my breathing slowed, and i mopped my face and nose and went back to join my family.

and then, my sweet daughter noticed my puffy eyes and splotchy face, and suggested that we have a cuddle in our beloved cuddle chair (a big leather chair in our living room, perfectly suited for the snuggling of one grown up, and one growing-but-not-quite-grown kid). so we did that, and she asked what had happened, and i just told her i was sad, so sad, i wasn’t sure why, but the feeling just go so big, did that ever happen to her? and she said it did, and she also said that it was okay, that i could be sad if i needed and she would be there. (and frig, that almost made me start up again because hello, who is this beautiful, sensitive creature who is just freshly nine years of age?!)

so then we had dinner, and did our bedtime song and dance, and after i’d tucked that beautiful, sensitive creature into bed and crawled into my own, there was a part three to the release. and i don’t know what exactly precipitated this series of releases, what button i hit, but even though it was exhausting and made my head pound and my eyes burn, i was just so grateful for the emptiness it left behind, for the feeling of my exonerated, exhaled grief in the room.

and in fact, it is only just now that it strikes me why it felt okay, why i can feel grateful, and it’s because of how gently i was held through it: by my wife, my child, by pocketbrit. by my t, when i told her about it today. and mostly, that i managed to hold myself through it, that somehow, i managed to sit with it, and let it be there. that i finally discovered a mute button to shame, under whose rule i’ve been living for weeks.

i know the relief cannot last, but for today, it is enough, it is welcome, it is good.

one hundred & thirteen: gratitude

the very first thing i thought about while reading this word was this song by ani difranco. what does my body have to do with my gratitude, indeed.

*

my parents expected unending gratitude for nearly everything we received. gifts. compliments. none were without strings or conditions. they were pseudo-generous; they gave things frequently, but expected to be thrown a parade in return. i remember hating that, the way they talked about people who didn’t express sufficient gratitude for what they were given, or didn’t return the favour adequately; how they seemed to give to others for the recognition, rather than out of the goodness of their hearts.

*

i also just thought about all the genuine, life-giving gratitude i have for still being here. for the people who have carried me through, especially the past three years. my wife, my kiddo, my sweetest pocketbrit, my friend s, my therapist. i could never have done it alone. i don’t know how anyone does.

*

i think about how how frequently i say the words ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’, often in the same breath. how i apologize for my existence and then thank people for not leaving me, for staying near, for not hurting me, for loving me. how deep my gratitude is, when i say those things, but in typing it now, how sad that is. that people sticking around, or loving me feels like something unexpected and exceptional, rather than something we all deserve.

and now i’m just fucking sad again.

 

 

seventy-nine: weather(ed)

i keep thinking of the weathered hands of elderly people: the geography of aging. the smattering of brown speckly age spots, the raised, snaking veins, wriggling their way between bumpy knuckles and fragile tendons. the delicate creases in the pliable dough of their palms. i love hands, anyway, and i love the hands of old people perhaps the very very most of all.

and now, i am thinking of their skin. have you ever held the wrinkled hands of someone very old? or brushed your lips against their soft, lined cheek? their skin is like silk… so soft. so dry and so soft. the calluses of their younger days mellowed, the strength of their grip and sharpness of their joints diminished by time.

even though it has been nearly thirty years since i held the cool, knotted hands of my grandmother in my own, as i sat with her, in the throes of fitful dreams induced by the narcotics to dull the cancer that was eating her body from within…even though it’s been so long, i can still imagine her soft, soft hands like it were yesterday. as though she were right here, smoothing my hair back, wiping the tears that are suddenly on my cheeks, stroking my face so gently, so carefully, with such love.

Resolutions

I’ve been searching, for years, for a resolution to the things that happened to me.

For years I placed it out of my mind. Don’t think about it, don’t feel anything, don’t acknowledge any of it. That was my resolution, and it was a necessary one at the time.

Then I moved out of my parents’ house and suddenly that was no longer possible. I couldn’t ignore it, even when I wanted to. So my resolution became to start talking (or try to) and to get over it without ever having to say a word to my family or friends.

Except that still wasn’t working too well, and one night I did tell a friend. Then we both ignored it… Didn’t know what to say so said nothing at all. Nothing had really changed, I was still set firmly that I would never tell anyone, never hurt my family and break us up. That that was no resolution at all.

Fast forward a couple of years and outwardly everything remains the same. Still set in my mind… I’ll never tell, never ruin everything. But inwardly I am a mess. I’m spending lots of time on a forum, I can’t shake thoughts of this stuff for more than 2 hours in a row. I feel unfixably broken. I’ve become extremely close to a woman that has done something I am to afraid to. She is brave and strong and amazing, even when she feels the opposite of all of those things. And I feel ashamed that I’m too weak to do what she’s done. That I can’t stand up and tell them.

Until one day I do. Without ever intending to. (and she’s the first person I tell). I’m a mess, I’m dissociative, I’m trying to keep everything together whilst it’s falling apart. And yet somewhere inside of me I had this voice saying that it was good, so good. That I’d told, that the burden and weight was lifted, that it would all be okay. That finally, I had my resolution.

Naive, right? Oh yes. No resolution, no nothing. Heartbreak and pain that the two people that raised me want nothing to do with this information. That I come last, yet again. That I am placed yet again in the position of keeping this secret, only this time with nobody to hold out hope for. Nobody to think that they would care and love me and put me first. Nobody to be heartbroken by the things that were done to me.

Now I don’t know what the resolution is. To stay here? To ignore it all and keep this secret to keep my family? To leave and lose all of them?

I still don’t have a resolution, and I realise that I won’t ever have a resolution that feels good. And this post is whiny and poor-me and annoying, I know. But actually, tonight it breaks my heart. It kills me that our mums did nothing whilst we were sexually abused by members of our own family. It kills me that after telling, years later, they still do nothing. The lack of safety, the lack of loving people, the aloneness. Jesus it hurts tonight. It really fucking hurts.

Can you imagine? A wee little pocketcanadian at 4 years old, in her bedroom, alone, after being shamed, alone and scared and trying to make sense of the disgusting things men did to her tiny little body.

I always felt disgusting. I blamed myself and I felt like I had to be the adult keeping our family together. I didn’t let anyone in, I tried not to let myself have feelings, except late at night, when i would cry myself to sleep. I wasn’t safe. I never felt safe.

There probably isn’t a resolution. I suspect its dumb to expect one. But I can’t seem to stop searching for one

***

Tonight pc and I have been messaging. I told her how sad I was, how I couldn’t bear any more hurt. And she said yeah, that’s what’s been hurting her so much, that she feels like she’ll never get over that hurt. I told her we will, we both will. Not get over it, but become more at peace with it. (Meaning, it will always be there, but we’ll be better able to cope with it, we’ll come to accept it easier, somehow. I don’t know, I can’t seem to adequately explain what I mean). Her response: no we won’t. But it will get less. It will inform our lives, it will make us so so strong and so gentle and so resolved to not repeat it ever again.

I feel like I want to save those words. I want to save the love and protectiveness and gentleness we are both feeling for little us tonight. And I want to save that knowledge, that the hurt will change. It will always be there, but it won’t be as strong as it is tonight, it will shift, and it will sit differently within our bodies.

And I want to cement that resolution. I will never do what our mother’s did. I will never sit back and allow those things to happen to a child. And should somebody let me in to their hurt and tell me of terrible things that have happened to them, I endeavour to always take it seriously, to be gentle and loving and present.