Briefly—I have a lot to do today—I went to see C last night for probably the last time at the hostel this year. Maybe ever. Life is more uncertain than I realize, and maybe I won’t be able to come back to Y-town. I have no idea.
I had some feelings. It came on the end of a hard day. My colleague—Arts Sir—interrupted me constantly, talked over me, talked while I was talking, generally prevented me from being able to explain any question to my students during an important exam. For an hour. In the afternoon, I checked the exam and was able to see the impact of that in their scores on said exam.
I think he meant well, but it made for a frustrating day. It also touched a wound of being, in a sense, muzzled. I felt disallowed from even speaking. That’s my stuff, I know. Country X-ers just don’t take turns speaking necessarily. They have overlapping speech patterns. People tend to talk at the same time, and not notice whether anyone is listening. To get someone’s attention here is sometimes difficult. It’s different.
Anyway, it was a hard day.
Also, I have been re-marking the exam for my other students, and maybe only one person marked correctly on a consistent basis—meaning out of 70 exams there aren’t just than a handful of marking errors. There are mistakes in every exam. Not just differences in judgment, but quite significant mistakes. There are mistakes in every exam. In some exams, mistakes in marking more than five questions. Some markers made mistakes in nearly every exam they marked on at least one question. They either aren’t consistent (same error, different marks awarded for different students), they didn’t follow my marking instructions, they marked incorrect answers as correct and correct answers as incorrect. For some students, the difference between the mark awarded by the group who worked on these papers is different by 10 or more marks out of a hundred.
It’s not that I don’t also make mistakes (and I did make mistakes—I found mine too). But I found four or five mistakes of mine in 70 papers. Not every paper.
I am at the point where I wonder if they were just drunk. They didn’t seem drunk, but when the question asks a student to draw a quadrilateral, and a four-sided shape is marked as incorrect on several papers, I wonder what happened.
And then I went to see C, because I think she is breaking inside. That pressure of needing to connect, because this is a stressful time, and it makes connecting more scary so she needs connection more and is getting less of it is reaching a breaking point.
Also, walking up, I ran into one of the English teachers from C’s school. Not C’s English teacher, but I know her. She was dressed casually and not wearing make-up, and it made me realize she’s a human being too.
She said I was a good mom. If you have disorganized attachment, you will understand a comment like that fucks with you. It doesn’t hit you the way it does a normal person. You don’t get a nice glow of pleasure that someone thinks well of you. It fucks with your whole sanity.
Anyway, I went. It was fine. Maybe. Who knows.
I walked down again. As I got close to home, I was hit very hard with a shame shower. Very, very hard. I kind of scraped dinner together and went to sleep. I woke up in the morning in the midst of the same shame shower, as if sleep had just given me more energy to hate myself with.
I stayed with it. One thing I had realized in the evening is that I actually have no idea what set it off. I clearly felt ashamed and I had not the remotest idea why. There was a period during which my mind rooted around for things to feel ashamed about, and then I realized I just don’t freaking know. No idea whatever. No idea about what triggered this response in the present. No idea if it is based in anything real in the present. Just body slammed for reasons I cannot comprehend.
I felt very worthless, very unimportant, very not-valued.
I cried a lot.
Eventually, I began to think that even as young children, we have an idea of how other people view us. Our ability to articulate this and think about it and communicate about it is not that great, but we have some idea of how other people see us. Young children are less self-absorbed than adults presume. They have less experience and therefore less ability to understand why other people feel the way they do, and less capacity in their working memory to consider other points of view (and less impulse control) as they try to regulate their behaviour to get along with other people. But they do know how other people see them. They see how people behave towards them, and they know what that treatment means in terms of how others think about them. They know how others think of them largely as a felt sense within themselves, rather than a conscious awareness.
That is what I am remembering. I am remembering the felt sense of experiencing behaviour from my parents and others that was uncaring.
I feel like I don’t matter, because I experienced how they treated me and I knew they didn’t see me as someone who matters, and this information was provided to me via a felt sense. I am remembering the felt sense.
One thing I have come to appreciate recently is that there are many minds out there, each of them slightly unique. People don’t see me in the same way. Some people like me. Some people don’t. Some people think I am doing great things. Some people disapprove of my choices. I imagine someone with a “positive self-image,” disregards most information about themselves that might be considered negative in the same way that we disregard other information that doesn’t fit with our existing biases. I don’t have a coherent self-image, so everything gets considered. I am not like someone with a good childhood. I never will be. But that doesn’t mean I am defective or broken. It does mean if I talk to someone who doesn’t know what it is like to be me, they might not get me. And maybe that’s okay.
The upshot of my understanding that there are many different minds out there, all with their own opinions about things, including opinions about me, is that I no longer see my “mattering” or my worth as a fixed thing. I didn’t matter to my parents. I might have mattered to other people when I was a child. There are some people I might matter to now, and some people I don’t matter to. That feeling “I don’t matter” is telling me about someone else’s mind, and someone else’s perception of me. It’s not a fact about me. It is a fact about someone else’s mind.
There will always be people in my life to whom I don’t matter, or to whom I am an object. Sometimes, that person will be my colleague, sometimes my boss, sometimes it will the person at Starbucks preparing my coffee for me as they do every other unknown face who walks through the door of their coffee shop.
I will need to be able to tolerate the feeling state that goes with registering that perception of me. I am not going to matter to everyone.
I didn’t matter to my parents. I needed to matter to them. But I didn’t. The reality of that hurts. It’s going to hurt. I couldn’t process that pain or understand it as a child. I can understand it now. Being a child and having parents who don’t care about you really, really hurts. It hurts every single day. It hurts to go home to people who don’t care about you, and it hurts to leave them every day and face the world without anyone to return to. It’s a very, very lonely childhood to have. That childhood is over, but it isn’t processed or understood. I don’t know where I was or who I was, and I have to know now in order to get on with life. I can’t say it’s over and move on from it, although that is mostly what everyone is hoping to do. I have to live with that reality. I was a child who wasn’t cared about, and that childhood will be a part of me always.
My other thought about this is that the past has already happened. I cannot go back and change it, so I cannot go back and say I mattered, I always mattered. I did not matter to my parents. Make of that whatever you want to, but I felt I did not matter to them, I have a memory of that felt sense and it came from their treatment of me and how their behaviour communicated their view of me. That was the view it communicated to me, and my memory of it is not something I can change now. It happened. It felt that way to have it happen. I felt I did not matter, and it was painful. I cannot change how much this hurt. Refusing to remember that pain won’t erase the pain I felt. When I am reminded of my childhood and my relationship with my parents, I am going to feel some of that pain again, because that is how memory works. It might get softer, because memory does soften in time, and this is all unprocessed and raw now. But it is going to hurt to remember my past. I can’t make it not hurt.