one hundred & sixty seven: volatile

this one is fully my mom. if we think about volatile as the opposite of stable (which i do, i guess) then this one is for my mom.

it wouldn’t be fair to say i never knew what was coming…i did. i could tell by looking at her face whether i’d need to try extra hard to be good or quiet, or whether i’d more actively need to try to smooth things over, to anticipate what might make things worse. i can remember so many afternoons in grocery stores, shrinking away as she raked the poor cashier over the coals for not ringing something in correctly or not honouring their price comparison policy. the sound of her voice was accusatory and loud, self-righteous, grating, and even imagining it now makes me cringe.

there is one time i remember in particular, i would guess i was 5 or so, and my brother (then 3 or so) and i were fighting around dinnertime. i’m sure we were shoving and whining and being fully annoying, as little kids close to supper can be. i don’t even know what happened exactly, i just know that all of a sudden my mom yanked a kitchen drawer open, pointed to the knives in the drawer and screamed ‘why don’t you just kill each other already?!’ before slamming out of the house.

i don’t exactly remember what happened next, except we clearly didn’t kill each other coz we’re both still here. i seem to recall we just stopped, in shock and disbelief, i think, and maybe slunk to our rooms. but what i wish i could recollect was, did we go and look for her? how long did she leave us in the house on our own? where did she go? what happened next? i’m not sure.

there were other times i remember where she would entirely lose it, in frustration, would slam into a part of the house or into a room and cry hysterically and loudly. one time in particular, i was about 10 or 11, she took herself to the basement where we could hear her howling, and it was the first time i didn’t follow her down there, or go down to check on her, as i often did. i remember being scared that i didn’t want to, scared that i didn’t do it. wondering about the implications. again, i don’t have a clear memory as to what happened after…whether she resurfaced and just pretended all was well, or whether i got in trouble for not following her. i don’t know. but it was all very unpredictable: her love, her presence, her ability to parent, her patience.

one hundred: diligence

i searched for the definition of this word, coz i like to see if how i understand it is how others do. (also i like to compare canadian and british definitions, just coz.) (canadian ones are far superior of course.)

the most common definition is about showing care or conscientiousness to one’s duties, and is the one i had in mind. but the one definition i encountered that hit me square in the solar plexus is that being diligent means that you are earnest, and try to do everything right. hello, welcome to my life (and my recovery from trauma).

probably every school report card from kindergarten to high school called me a diligent student, and i was, and i am, a hard worker. it matters a great deal to me for me to be careful in word, and in deed, and throughout my life – including as recently as last week, in a work evaluation – people comment on it.

coz it’s true, painfully so. i work so hard, all the time, to know what the right thing is for all the people around me, all the situations around me. for me, showing love includes knowing what to do, what to say, how to be present. getting it right, hitting the mark, is what drives me, is what i strive for.

and so, when i miss? dear god.

my worst shame, the very very darkest and scariest thing that it says, is that i won’t get it right, not ever. that i can’t, no matter what. that i won’t, because i’m too selfish and stupid, because i could never, because there is something just so wrong about me that i would never even be able to know. and that this core inadequacy is unforgivable. that i will drive everyone away and be alone, as people as disappointing as me deserve to be.

my hands shook typing that, all of the truths of my shame. the truth about me, the truth about diligence: that i can try all i want, but it doesn’t matter.

all of it served to me in my mother’s voice, with her the mist of her hissing spitting s’s landing all over my face.

**this post was actually written on jan 13/19 but backposted to the day the word came out**