this month's collab for Just Another Collab: parents.
or, Electra Revisited
the gremlins in my head have been overly active recently. you know those gremlins that feed your inner fears of failure? the ones that make you compulsively check for that bit of spinach in your teeth as you talk to your boss? or that keep telling you you're fat and unloveable, not to mention stupid? or that yell at you for not calling your parents? yeah, those gremlins. and that's just when they're gearing up.
i've been trying to ignore them. if you don't feed the animals, maybe they'll just tucker out. or at least, that was the theory. it didn't work. so i tried another tack. deep breathing, creative visualization, long sessions talking with friends. it would calm the gremlins down temporarily. but they love to come out and play at night. the wee early hours of the morning appear to be their favorite romping grounds.
insomnia, restlessness, fear, nerves... these are the gifts that the gremlins give.
and they roared out in fine style the other night, given the tasty treat of an offhand comment. i was told i was a 'good girl'. now, i was feeling many things at the moment. nervous, jangly, sensual, submissive - but not good. i wasn't feeling Bad, but definitely not Good.
Good is patent leather shoes and white socks. Good is brushing your teeth after every meal. Good is saying 'yes, ma'am', 'no, sir', 'please' and 'thank you'. Good is paying your bills on time, and never getting in anyone's way. Good is writing prompt thank you notes on creamy stationary. Good is being polite, and quiet, and sincere. Good is about hitting all the marks your parents set.
ooooooh. or are they the marks you think your parents set? are they in fact marks that you set for yourself, thinking that would help win your parents' affection?
and there's the rub. on some deep level, the conflict comes down to this. i think affection is a hard won thing, gained by being prim and proper. i don't know where this came from. it's not as if my parents were ever stinting with their love. they were, perhaps, a bit reserved in expressing it. more specifically, my dad was quiet about offering words of high praise. they were given most often for achievements, like hitting honor roll. but then, when you've hit honor roll every term, it becomes old hat, expected. and you search for the next way, the next step up, to hear those words.
we fought like hammer and tongs, my dad and i, when i was growing up. often, i felt like the tongs. i desperately wanted to do what he expected of me, to make him happy by living up to his standards. and i hated him for the pressure that engendered. i wanted to do things the way i saw fit, and because i *chose* to, not just because he said that was the way life should be. and yet, i am my father's daughter in spades. what i chose was to try and be my best. i put that same pressure on myself.
then again, i wanted to cut loose and have some fun. my idea of fun never really met with much approval. staying out late with the theatre group, dating inappropriate men, reading until all hours instead of doing chores - huh. hardly sounds like the incendiary sparks of rebellion, does it? sounds pretty damn normal. but it was the source of much conflict between me and my dad.
it was also the seed of the ongoing internal argument that i find myself having to this day. party like a rock star, or work overtime? run errands, or mess around on the computer? call my friends and go see a movie, or volunteer for a local group? the Good Girl in me tsk tsks, and sternly reminds me that i should work a few extra hours, get the project done, typed up neatly and left on my boss's desk, then put in an hour at the local shelter before doing some grocery shopping for me and my elderly neighbor. and the Other Girl in me wails and gnashes her teeth and stomps off to her favorite bar.
of course, this wasn't all apparent to me when the gremlins stampeded all over me. i was just a sobbing mess. it took a few days for all of this to settle out - sort of when you stir up the frog pond and then you have to wait for the silt to filter back to the bottom. and i certainly didn't expect to find this waiting for me in the mud.
i didn't expect it because it hasn't been an external conflict for some time. my dad and i have worked out a good relationship (not sharing the same roof helps immensely). when i call home now, i end up talking to dad for long periods, and don't always get around to chatting with mom. this has been a lovely and welcome development, and hopefully says something about the fact that we can see each other as adults, peers of a sort (altho you never really are with your parents, i think).
apparently, tho, i'm still waging the internal battle with some figment of my dad. or my projection of me as my dad. or just myself. i wish it wouldn't come out at such horribly weird moments, but at least i know it's there.
i was leafing thru a book of Frank O'Hara's poems tonight, and found this in his Personism: A Manifesto.
That's for the writing poems part. As for their reception, suppose you're in love and someone's mistreating (mal amiť) you, you don't say "Hey, you can't hurt me this way, I care!" you just let all the different bodies fall where they may, and they always do may after a few months. But that's not why you fell in love in the first place, just to hang onto life, so you have to take your chances and try to avoid being logical. Pain always produces logic, which is very bad for you.
i underlined the last two sentences when i first read them, nearly 15 years ago. he's talking about poetry, yes, but also about love and living and logic and self love and how to just be, in the world. and those words still speak to me. i'm thinking about how to try and reason my way out of this black box i put myself in, and listening to Frank, and see how i'm the one who doesn't love me, instead i feed the gremlins, and thinking perhaps i should just let they fall, as they always do may. those gremlins that i've built in my head - reasoning with them won't get me anything but pain and logic. those green knobbly little bodies should fall where they do may.