I had a chat with C about her schooling. It’s been on my mind that I ought to give this some attention while I still have some time to think, because mostly I find the hard part in life is thought: it’s weighing the options, planning next steps. Action is the easy part.

I told her I wanted to talk to her about something.

“Wat abt mom”

I said her schooling next year.

She said I know I won’t qualified. (Still working on verbs, as you can see.) Not everyone wins a place in 11th grade. She was about in the middle of her class last year. She might feel worse knowing I am not confident she will be successful this year, but I believe she needs unconditional acceptance the most. That was my thought. That’s why I brought it up.

I said she might qualify but I am prepared to send her to private school. She said, “Nope, I will nt go to private i hate private.”

So then we talked about failure and what that means. Mostly, I did, but I got some full and complete sentences out of her.

As we chatted, I really thought about how angry and frustrated she would feel when she can’t understand the content. Communication is what life is all about as a human being. We want to understand. We want for someone to understand us. It made sense to me that she feels enraged when there is a failure in connection, even if it is with a teacher or a textbook. It made sense to me that she might punish herself with harsh words when she feels that kind of rage. Anger makes us want to punish someone. That’s just instinct. We learn to be angry without hurting anyone only with time. If her parents never learned to control themselves, how would she? What she would learn is to hurt someone smaller and more helpless than the adults around her—which is herself.

I am also aware how this relates to reaching toward your parent. Your first task in life was to establish a relationship with your caregiver. What if you can’t?

I said I don’t want you to punish yourself with your words when you feel angry. A lot of other stuff too, but that was the gist.

I said you aren’t bad or useless.

“Ok mom.”

That process of really trying to understand what she is going through and why she would think and feel the way that she does—that is what is missing in her relationship with her parents, most likely. It is what was missing in mine. They can’t seem to feel her, because they can’t imagine or respond to her emotional state in a way that doesn’t create an explosion and send her running for cover. When she has strong emotions, she can either keep them to herself and lose connection that way or she can try to connect and be abused. It’s a lose-lose situation. She cannot be “felt” by her parents.

Later, I was writing in my journal and I thought I really hate doing this. I hate writing in my journal. I have this idea it ought to be lovely and relaxing and I could really enjoy observing my own thoughts and feelings. But I don’t. It makes me fucking suicidal. It is the single most horrible thing I do every day. I have an image in my mind of what it might be or could be or ought to be and it is not that.

It is what it is and it is not that.

I am in the business of accepting reality these days. That’s reality. Observing my own thoughts and feelings sucks. I hate it. It is not lovely and relaxing and wonderful. It’s horrible.

That sort of got me going onto other realities.

After a while, I began to think about C and really needing someone who can be with her in her rage and frustration and not have to lose connection with other people because she is having strong feelings. I thought that is unconditional acceptance. You are where you are. You feel the way you feel. And I love you. I am here with you while you feel it and go through it.

That is what I did not have as a child. That is what it means to have a mother. I don’t mean to idealize motherhood. But I think a “good enough” mother does stay with you while you cry as an infant because you have gas or an upset tummy. They get through your toddler tantrums somehow.

I did not have that. My mother is and was mentally ill. I don’t know why she is that way, but she is and she couldn’t hack my infant colic or my toddler tantrums. There was no one who would stay with me and offer connection when I had strong, painful feelings.

And I am grown up now. I am an adult and responsible for my own behaviour. Essentially, it is too late for me to experience unconditional acceptance, because I need to behave. No one is obligated to stick around if I act like a jerk because I can’t handle my own shit.

I did not know that. I did not know what I needed to grieve for or mourn.

The thing about grieving is that it does allow you to let go. It means things can still be okay even if with all of your losses. The losses hurt. If you can never find a way to cope with the pain of your losses, you can’t move on from them. No matter how firmly you force them out of your mind, they will still hurt.

I do think I am healing.

I don’t think I have ever been so tired in my life.


3 thoughts on “Heavy

  1. This.shaking April 15, 2017 / 10:40 am

    Dear Ash: Which jammies would you like to wear tonight? Which dolly do you want to hold tonight? What story would you like us to read tonight? Oh, how pretty you look! And I love that book you chose – it’s funny and sad and a little scary but very happy and OK in the end. Let’s snuggle while we read it and then you can have a really good snooze. Oh, I forgot tooth brushing – how good that you remembered it. Nice and clean and shiny now – and I see a couple of grownup teeth in your mouth now too! I’m so proud of you. Sleep tight and I’ll see you in the morning light. Big Hug. TS

    • Ashana M April 16, 2017 / 9:49 am

      I suppose this seems like a young feeling that I am having, but it doesn’t feel young. It feels very much I am 43 years old and I have this painful feeling I can’t really process or understand. It’s kind of like other experiences, some of which happened in childhood, but this is about me now.

  2. La Quemada April 17, 2017 / 12:54 pm

    I know that feeling: “…I am grown up now. I am an adult and responsible for my own behaviour. Essentially, it is too late for me to experience unconditional acceptance, because I need to behave…” I felt this especially intensely when I was first divorced and raising my two small boys on my own. I have to be a grown-up, but I really need to fall apart and be loved and cared for. It was exhausting. I could only do it by packing away a ton of my emotional baggage until they were older. I think now it was no accident that it was only when they were both old enough to move out that I opened up all the stuff about my past in therapy. I mean, I had touched on it very lightly with E, but then I’d close it back up again because I felt I didn’t have space or time to panic or despair or grieve, all the emotional things that needed to go with processing trauma.

    As I write more, I’m not sure this is entirely what you meant, but for whatever reason, these words about having to be an adult and never getting the unconditional acceptance really resonated for me. It is sad not to get that from our parents. And it is fucking hard, excuse my French, to learn to give it to ourselves.

    Thinking of you.

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