It’s weird what ends up getting strung together in my head.
I was thinking again about that overwhelming sense of grief, that I just want to be dead, and I was thinking about how it’s coming from Annoushka. It’s coming from a part of myself that is 10 years old.
I don’t know what it was like for you to be ten, but for Annoushka it was defined by having a morass of indeterminate emotions: It was having this tangled mess of feelings inside, that were confusing and complicated generally hard to pin down the causes of.
So what is so difficult about life is also the tangled mess. It’s that someone important to me died, my future seemed to have died, and then I was stuck with this mess both about it and about other things.
When she was murdered, I lost the detangler. I lost the person I could tell them to and who could help me sort them out. That makes it doubly hard.
I went to therapy, and this seems to have made it worse. Then it really seemed hopeless, because experts couldn’t help me sort them out either. They talked about enmeshment and merging and setting boundaries and I just can’t see it. Seeing it involves refusing to see other things that make them not make sense. I know I am not the same person as Nata. She like strawberry things. She likes anything strawberry-flavoured. She likes strawberry soda best and she likes strawberry jam best and she likes real strawberries too.
I like those things, but I don’t like them best. If we have enough change lying around for two sodas, then I will get grape soda—which she doesn’t like—and she will get strawberry. But if there isn’t and we buy only one to share, we might get strawberry because she likes it and I like it okay too or we might get orange because we both like that, but we won’t get grape because she doesn’t like it. But I don’t think I’m her. I just think sometimes in life you need to compromise. You need to choose things that two people who are different from each other can both enjoy or at least live with.
So I can’t figure out why someone is telling me my problem is that I have given up too much of myself. Sometimes you just need to compromise. It just makes the tangled mess inside seem more hopeless, and as though I’ll never even be able to name these feelings let alone figure out what is causing them.
This seems to be what happens in dissociation. Information drifts down to the parts in disjointed ways.
Anyway, I’m thinking about that and trying to allow the suicidality and the grief to just surface, to give the part of myself it is coming from a sense that these feelings can be named. They can be understood. It need not always be a tangled mess inside. The mess can be straightened up.
And suddenly I start seeing a compass in my head. I see myself drawing circles. I don’t know why I’m drawing circles. I suppose I’m making a construction—I’m maybe bisecting an angle or something. I have no idea. I have no memory of doing constructions in maths class, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t.
Then the rest of it comes. I used to teach Nata maths. I taught her how to use multiplication arrays and we learned our multiplication tables together and I suppose at some point I must have taught her English words for numbers, because it seems to me that numbers are not in Russian. They are in English.
I remember bringing my textbook to her hotel sometimes because I wanted to show her the examples in the book. And it must have been an odd education for her, all in bits in pieces depending on when we had time and what had caught my interest in school.
I suppose I am remembering it more now, because Nata had a third grade education. I don’t know how Russian curriculum compared to American curriculum in the 70s and 80s, but there wasn’t much for me to teach her when I was very small except the names of things in English. But in fourth grade, there was. And I am teaching fourth grade this year. I am teaching my students the concepts I most vividly remember teaching Nata.
It’s not that I didn’t teach her things later—I remember showing her how to graph lines too—but it starts here. It starts when I was nine.
What stands about it most is the sense of resonance to it, the sense of it being home.