When I started writing this, I had a very different direction in mind. I hesitate to post yet another psycho-rant. It makes me sound as if I’m never any fun and must spend my days in an Emo funk. But the buried and not so buried somehow claw their way to the top and it’s almost impossible to stop the undead when they really want to get somewhere.
It feels like spring, and I feel springy. Exactly like a spring, coiled and ready to sproing. In devotions we watched one of the Nooma videos, on Noise. Pretty appropriate, as I feel like I’m full of noise. I love Rob Bell. He always makes Christianity seem wondrous instead of churchy and tired. And he has really cool glasses. I’m not quite sure how he pulls them off, they’re so cool.
We all had a lot to say about Noise, which is ironic. It was one of our longer devotions. We talked about how we find it so difficult to be silent. I used to spend much more time in silence than I do now. In New York I spent a lot of time in quiet. I would go into the Cathedral of St. John the Divine or the sanctuary of the Church Around the Corner and sit. I loved quiet. I wrote in quiet. Now one of the few places I have quiet is at work. Too much quiet. I’m isolated in a cubicle away from everyone. It’s quiet but not private, and of course I’m supposed to work and not meditate. I get a bit squirrelly when I have to work without anyone around. Funny, because when I write for myself I can’t stand to be disturbed. But that’s because I have words to fill up my mind. I don’t like total quiet without being able to generate something out of it, something to keep me company. My mind is not a pretty place and I don’t like to be alone with it.
I have a problem with screaming. I grew up with parents whose main form of communication was screaming. They didn’t scream at me, usually, but they screamed at each other. Now I find myself screaming periodically at the girls. It’s not the best parenting method. I’m a firm believer that spanking and threats aren’t viable, and yet I find myself resorting to coercion when I’m on my last leg. I can tell I let my impatience show all too often because the girls are now extremely impatient with each other. I feel like every time I try to improve in this area I end up worse than I began. My therapist encourages me to identify the physical sensation I get just before I lose it. Well, I haven’t been able to do that. One moment I’m dealing and the next I’m a banshee. For someone who was never directly threatened or coerced as a child, I sure am good at it.
Except, of course, there are all sorts of coercion and all types of threats. My mom’s main threat was that she would die. Basically, I was killing her. Weird how refusing to do the dishes can be lethal. She was much older than anyone else’s mom (42 when I was born) and I was very afraid of her dying. And the main form of coercion was the usually unspoken but sometimes spoken threat that mom would be hauled off to the asylum. That was the scariest thing imaginable—having to rely on dad for my day-to-day needs. I was very invested in keeping mom sane--and I had no idea she was actually mentally ill at the time. I didn’t know that until I was in my 20s. Have you ever seen someone make fun of another person for being mentally ill? My dad did that all the time. When my mom would have one of her spells he would tell her how stupid and crazy she was, and she would tell him how much he disgusted her and how vile he was, and she would mock certain habits, like the way he ate, by mimicking him. My mother’s “episodes” were ugly, full of repetitive, sometimes nonsensical rants and paranoia. She would become cold, unreachable and as furious as, well, one of the Furies. My dad would eventually run away somewhere, but I got to listen to the full litany of weirdness that scared me because I didn’t know where it came from and because it was completely impervious to reason. When she was sane she worked very hard at getting me on her side, making me her ally. Dad was not so successful in his attempts. I can still remember him sidling up to me when she was in full form during a visit to my grandparents. In a very low voice, a slimy, oily voice, the kind of voice reserved for dirty jokes and propositions, he told me that sometimes mom was not quite well and I shouldn’t let it bother me. If there is any one thing in my childhood that makes me angrier than any other, it may be that single attempt on his part to gain my favor.
I hated my mom for acting nuts and hated my dad because he always seemed to provoke her, and sometimes I would get this crawly icky feeling that I was going to wake up one morning with an axe in one hand and be completely unable to stop myself from killing them. And then I would be alone, very alone, all life-lines cut and evil settling in. At one time my mother was obsessed with the idea of possession—creepy obsessed. I was certain she thought I was possessed, and I was convinced it was a real possibility, that at any moment a demon could nest in me while I watched helplessly as my body was taken over. It seems so ridiculous now, but at the time I would lie paralyzed on my bed, waiting for any sign that a demon had come a knockin’
So I soaked up a lot of fury, and I am very very angry at my child self for not being able to make everything right. Logic does no good here. It makes no difference that I know it was impossible for a little girl to fix the huge mess my family made--the anger and self-loathing are still there. You’d think in this amount of time and oodles of therapy later I would have made some inroads in processing and transforming this.
It’s scary to have two daughters, living breathing projections of my child-self and potential recipients of my rage. It was one of the reasons I vowed never to have children. Now I have two beautiful girls and I’m afraid of what they’ll inherit. I love them so much, but then again, my mother loved me.