I have stayed home sick all week. I took off Saturday—a half day—because I was emotionally overwhelmed and then I was genuinely quite sick from Monday until today. I felt a little bit less death-bed sick, but not at all able to cope. So I’ve taken four and half days of leave.
It’s not really a good thing. I took two and half already. I have a total of ten, and it’s two months into the school year. I am just hoping that the endless string of illnesses has resulted in part from the stress of all the anniversary responses I had, that I didn’t quite know were coming. And the rest of the year I can be the picture of radiant health. Which could happen.
I know the fall is also awful, but it’s my second go-round with it. It’s not going to be entirely raw this year, as it has been every other year, because I hadn’t fully connected what had happened or what I was reacting to.
Anyway, I’m sleeping a lot and trying to take care of Ruthie, but there’s also been a certain amount of free time on my hands when I’m just kind of staring into space, wondering about things.
And it seems to me some things have happened. Several things, all connected, all built on one another. The more recent one—the top layer of the structure—was something I wrote about in a protected post (sorry if you couldn’t read it).
It’s the idea that Nata saw my body as belonging to me. Not in the sense of “you need to take back your body” or be proud of it or anything like that. Just it was kind of a no-brainer, and the way she interacted with me reflected her basic assumption about my rightful ownership of myself.
This is really hitting Ruthie a lot, and that seems to be making a difference to the whole of us.
The second piece of this, the next conclusion it leads to, is that my feelings are mine too. It’s my body. Everything it is feeling is also mine. The yucky, sicky ache is mine, the rush of pleasure from happy memories is mine, everything is mine.
And it opens up what seems to be an emotion and a whole web of associations that has to do with that emotion. The emotion I’m talking about is resonance. It’s the sense that that is “me,” I recognize that (whatever that may be) as having something to do with my experiences and my past and my identity.
I’ve been listening to the same playlist of five favourite Russian songs 24 hours a day since I got sick. It seems to help, so I just leave them on repeat. There are two lullabies on it. I think Nata probably sang them both to me and later to Veroushka, but one of them more than the other. Anyway, when I listen to them, there are a whole host of related memories I have of being sung to and of being held, of her holding Veroushka of her nursing Veroushka, a whole web of sensations and emotions. But one emotion I realized I have is just resonance.
That was my childhood: straddling Nata’s knees and putting my head on her shoulder and her singing to me. So one of the feelings I have about the lullabies is just that sense of resonance, of knowing in an emotional way that it played an important role in my life.
But resonance isn’t that familiar to me. A lot of the time, it gets met with a sense of shock—sometimes because what is resonant reflects something so horrifying or even just so new to our idea of what our life was like, but also because resonance got pushed aside for so long that we don’t recognize it as ours or as a possible feeling to have.
The new sense of ownership somehow changes that. It’s a feeling happening in my body. It must be mine.
Without resonance you construct your sense of self from the outside in, as I have done. You look at your behaviour or at your impulses and you decide that’s who you are. I keep having this urge to drink coffee, so I must like coffee. Well, yes, you probably do like coffee, but it’s an odd way to go about it. It’s flat somehow, unsatisfying, and you miss stuff that way.
For example, I was remembering going to the drugstore with Nata for ice cream and sour cream. I got an orange sherbet, single scoop, and she got sour cream. The ice cream isn’t the important part, but it’s part of the memory, so I have the taste of orange sherbet in my mouth, and I get from that taste a sense of resonance. As a girl, I liked orange sherbet. So did Nata. It was a good flavour to get to share, because we both liked it. And it’s different thing, somehow, to come to that conclusion from a sense of resonance inside rather than via the declarative knowledge that I liked orange sherbet or even from piecing it together from a string of memories where orange sherbet appears.
Resonance is how you know what your personality is, how you know what you like, and how you know who you are. But I didn’t have that feeling. When it came up, I was too overwhelmed by shock or I pushed it away because it was coming from inside my body—it seemed that way—and my body didn’t belong to me. You get other clues about anger or sadness or happiness, so you can still notice you are having those feelings without connecting to your body very much, but resonance is only a physical sensation. It doesn’t do much to your heartrate, it doesn’t lead to smile necessarily, you don’t begin to sweat. And so it’s really easy to miss if your disconnected from your body.
That brings me to another memory. I’m not sure if it’s going to turn out to be a tangent or not. I guess we’ll just have to see.
Anyway, I think I mentioned I ordered a stuffed elephant from a company that promises to deliver anywhere in the world. It’s supposed to have shipped yesterday. I was looking at a picture of the elephant—Ruthie wanted to see it. It just felt so resonant, that elephant. It’s not exactly the same as mine was, but it’s quite similar.
We were walking down the drugstore aisles—I was really quite young still. Probably only five or six. I don’t know why we were there. I think I didn’t quite know then. It was still that stage where I didn’t understand a lot of Nata was saying, just bits and pieces. I have a sense that we went there because she wanted to pick out a present for me, but it’s a vague sense. I’m not sure if that’s what we were doing.
But I remember liking the elephant. I remember the sense of resonance about it, because I liked it, and I picked it up and held it. I was quite little and the elephant seemed so big in my arms. Nata asked me something—did I like it? She might have asked me that. It could have been a different question.
I remember my eyes getting big and nodding. So we went to checkstand with it, and she took out her wallet and paid for it. Just like that.