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scattered thoughts

Sometimes I’ve survived anger only one minute at a time, by saying to myself again and again that the best kind of revenge is some kind of life beyond this, some kind of goodness.  And I can lay no claim to goodness until I can prove that mean people have not made me mean.

– Barbara Kingsolver, Small Wonder

Can you tell I love this book?  I finished it off yesterday, a copy I borrowed from the library.  This is probably the only book of Kingsolver’s I hadn’t read yet, excluding her collection of poetry.  (Perhaps blasphemic to admit, but I’m not too keen on poetry beyond Shel Silverstein and the odd Robert Frost).

I supposed I am terribly biased in my love of Kingsolver – I have found that our views of the world and our backgrounds echo each other in similar wavelengths, so I can’t help but see things her way.  When she speaks of a childhood wracked with self-doubt and a stubborn refusal to acknowledge her own strengths, I find myself remembering the social withdrawal I went through in high school.  Her essay reflecting on the struggle of her relationship with her mother is a heady reminder of what my own mother put me through, what I put her through, and how we somehow managed to wade out of years of miscommunication, generational and cultural differences, and family strife to get to where she ends every phone conversation with an “I love you” (unheard of, mind you, until two years ago), and I respond wholeheartedly in kind.

It was also in reading Kingsolver’s letter to her oldest daughter that I realized one of the predominant reasons why I want kids so badly.  I see and reflect on my own childhood, on all the issues I had growing up, and I have a wildly desperate desire to give kids of my own a different, more confident life.  What I don’t want is to fall into the trap of believing, as a parent, in the indomitable right to carve out a child’s path to adulthood.  I want to give them a better childhood without coddling and preventing them from growing into their own decisions.  Even though I have attended a college that expects me to change the world, at present I cannot see anything more important to me than raising a child.  And I wonder how this has become second-priority in this country – how raising a child has become a chore or best handed over to educational TV programs.

Of course, when I talk of this to my friends, we end up agreeing that there is simply too much we should be doing to broaden our life experience to be weighed down by another, completely dependent life.  We should be traveling, exploring the world, living among different cultures and bettering ourselves, before we settle down to marriage and suburbia.

Personally, I hope I never feel like I’m “settling in” for marriage.  A surprisingly insistent part of me even considers refusing marriage until it is no longer tied to religion, or until civil unions are offered in its place to partners regardless of their genders.  And you can bet that whatever piece of jewelry becomes the symbol of our union, there will be no diamonds present.  I will not have the blood of a pointless monopolized rock on my hands.

And the quote – God, that quote.  It shamed me to read that passage, because I have not always been able to forgive or leave vengeance behind.  This is especially true with regards to my first ex.  It is hard for me to admit that, when I found out about his fiancée and the world as I knew it crumbled around me, I wanted to hurt them, punish them, more than I wanted to pick myself up and move on.  I don’t know if I hated them or myself more.  It is not a stretch to say that at times the only fragile thread that kept me afloat was one friend’s particular insistence on my staying alive.

I took my inability to see through my ex’s lies as a personal failure, a source of bottomless shame and injured pride, especially in light of my mother’s warnings and final ultimatum towards this man that she never met.  How could I tell her how wrong I was, when I’d spent so much breath and tears fighting in his defense?  It hurt, even beyond the scale of the hurt he did to me with his lies, to admit such a lack of judgment.

This is not exactly the path I envisioned taking, in writing down some of the innumerable thoughts that came to mind while reading Small Wonder.  But I suppose it’s what I’ve been wrestling with in my mind for a couple weeks now.  And as I continue to delve into the community of kink and BDSM, I find myself having to continually bring up this man as the first to open my eyes to kink, and then the first to break my heart.

But perhaps all of this talking, as opposed to three years before when I refused even to explain why I had broken up with my ex, is the final healing balm I need.  It has been awhile since I’ve mentioned him at all here, but it now has lost that sour tinge of hatred of previous posts, from previous years.  And I do sincerely hope that he has not made me mean, as I search for my own kind of life and goodness beyond all of this.

  1. April 15, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    “What I don’t want is to fall into the trap of believing, as a parent, in the indomitable right to carve out a child’s path to adulthood. ”

    With such insight, believe me, you won’t. Gibran may have been a drunk mystic but he was a wise mystic when he said:

    “Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow.”

    The above is all I’ve ever felt I needed to know about parenting. Truly.

    As for the rest of your excellent post; many of your lessons were/are my lessons, but I think you have learnt/are learning them at a younger age than I did. I’m very, very glad for you.


    • April 15, 2009 at 7:49 pm

      My sincere thanks, Swiss Missus, for the reassurance and advice. And for a new poet to look into! “sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself”…beautiful.

      As for the rest…it is still hard, sometimes. The anger still flares up (it did just now, as again I thought, “How could he say that he loved me with a straight face, all of those times?”)

      But whereas in the past it took a friend’s constant vigilance and repetitions of hope to calm my fury and sadness, now at least I have a good mantra to repeat to myself: “Let not his meanness make me mean.” It is about as close to prayer as I have ever come.

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