broken hook

maui

For the record, I massively love in Moana how the guy who presents as a cocky jerk is broken apart so visibly. Obviously there’s the fem main character too (plus her sexuality not being part of the plot), but I knew about that going in and I was already on board for it. But I didn’t expect to see some self-aggrandizing jock torn up, not just via implication but verbally and openly. He places all his self-worth in this tool outside himself, and without it he sees himself as nothing, and he says it. That’s the sort of thing you usually surmise about people after they die and you try to put together the pieces of their life in a way that makes sense to you. And we are just out and told it, in dialogue and in song. It twists up my stomach, the way I first remember the shrinking episode of Lois and Clark (yeah I know, of all things!) doing. That kind of vulnerability (its exposure?) makes me a little nauseous, but it’s so worth portraying. Self-awareness, people! Self-awareness. Even if it turns you a little green.

“Chasing the love of these humans
Who made you feel wanted

You tried to be tough
But your armour’s just not hard enough”

heart

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mother tongue

aquarium

I wanted to write a post about reading The Handmaid’s Tale as a teenager. How it was my mother who encouraged me to read it, when it came up as an option in school.

But I don’t remember enough.

I can’t tell her about it, now. She doesn’t know it anymore. Might not know me. But I recall not wanting to read the book, namely because I didn’t want to listen to my classmates, like the guy who told me I should fuck dogs if I thought fucking women was okay, weigh in on it. I didn’t want to read it but I did anyway, because my mother so rarely weighed in on what we should or should not read, and she said I ought to read that.

I remember bringing up the butter as moisturizer — “how could you…?” — as an artless segue into a discussion about the ending. (Spoilers.) My mother walked a fine line between the Reviving Ophelia generation of mothers, rightfully concerned about their kids cutting or killing themselves; and the blatant pragmatism of someone who had already considered her future and decided that yes, there were worse things than death. This was accompanied by all these corollaries explaining that then and only then, only in such an environment as that, would it even be conceivable to–

–and I’d cut her off flatly, reminding her that…oh, I can’t remember the pet phrase I had for it. I had a pet phrase for everything. Something about not wallowing in a puddle of my own despair. I didn’t like — abhorred, even — the idea of her treating me even for a minute with kid gloves, as some fragile Ophelia in need of bookshelves’ worth of doctoral opinions about child rearing. (I don’t know where I got the idea that any parenting advice obtained from a book was bad, but there it was. Maybe I just hated the cover, how fragile it made us all look.) But I also wanted her to keep leveling with me the way she was doing, about Handmaid’s Tale. About rape, I guess, and suicide. As far as I knew, no one else’s mom was leveling with them on this — at least not honestly, without the cellophane wrappings of religion or dogma or someone else’s words getting in the way.

If I could watch it with her, I’d thank her for that. For not pretending these things don’t happen. Or that by not talking about them, you can keep them from happening to you. But I can’t talk to her about it, because she’s no longer herself. And I guess, to her, I’m no longer me, either.

IMG_1219

So, anyway. The choice of song during the credits made my skin crawl. Is there a term for one’s skin crawling in the face of too on-point juxtaposition? If someone comes up with one, do let me know. I will then apply it all the times I catch myself biking to or from work, in despair over not remembering a thing — the Italian Cypress species of tree, for example, or Jamie Fraser’s full name — even as I wait for updates from my father on my mother’s bedridden, unknowing, pain-wracked condition.

I was grateful to her for the words she shared with me, after all. It is only right to keep trying to shape myself with them until I go helplessly down the same road she did. Even as I remember her saying that there were, indeed, worse things than death.

I know, Mom.

wrong number try again

book

I’m really exceptionally skilled at accumulating those “do what you love / if you are passionate about X, do it!” speeches.* The problem is I am never passionate about X; just good about towing its line to the point where people for whom X is everything think it is for me, too.

And it’s never some soul-searching moment either, because I’m not on some grand quest to find something I care about: I already know what I love doing! I just don’t do it for money because it’s not lucrative, and it’s far easier to be Good Enough at other things that pay.  Until, of course, you get to the part  where people give you what are meant to be inspiring speeches about the field — speeches which are destined never to move me as much as the speaker intended because these fields I wander into are staging areas. And I meander from staging area to staging area, because I never care enough about the grand production to take up a central a role there. And also because writers as a group can sometimes be real dicks, and people in other fields are more pleasant to be around. Mostly.

All of which is to say I suppose I should do some typing this weekend.

swanson

 

*Chris, this wasn’t your speech. This was the speech that led to me hitting you up for your advice, which was sensible and helpful. Thanks!

**Also, this isn’t about the new job; it’s about how people assume I felt about the old job.

anchors

anchor

With Alzheimer’s in your blood, there is of course little you can do (beyond, I guess, becoming a guinea pig, but I’m not frying my brain early for false hope). But you’d be a fool if you didn’t try and think how you might make it easier for those around you. One of things mean letting go of certainties. Maybe, if you got yourself to a point where you were comfortable and used to allowing for doubt in your own convictions — I think, particularly, of all the times my mother was sure a thing had been in a certain place, or that one of us had clearly moved said thing and lied about it — maybe, if you were already in the habit of stopping and asking yourself if you were really so sure about X, Y, or Z, maybe you’d be less…awful…to people around you.

Except, when I try and go through these motions, it feels like a lot of that work is already done. I already question a shit ton of stuff. For good or ill, that’s what an education captained by people of a Foucaultian bent will do to you. Is this really this way? Am I really capable of seeing outside this box I’m in? Stuff like that.

But these aren’t the sort of things my mom would go off on us about. She never fought with us over existential questions. She remained wise and self-questioning about that stuff right up until the disease took over the ability to think down those roads. But I don’t generally find myself accusing people of misplacing objects or, worse, deliberately sabotaging my plans. (And I mean, my mom wasn’t a bitch before Alzheimer’s, so maybe that’s not something you can avoid. Maybe those almost paranoid convictions come with the territory, and no amount of self-prep beforehand can spare those around you.)

The only convictions I have left, then, that I stick to, are emotional convictions. And those…I don’t want to give those up. I never feel unrooted in my relationship, for example, or regret marrying the guy despite being a bi woman. I don’t moon over what could have been, or…feel like I should? There isn’t some other life I wish I were living. Surely, if I can remember that–hang onto that rootedness–I won’t devolve into the kind of accusatory vitriol that so defined my grandmother’s experience with the disease?

And see, I allow myself to hope that I could be harmless, and not hurtful, but my mom was in the same position I’m in. She’d had this amazing life and travelled all over and none of it had gone the way she thought it would as a teenager, but she was happy. She wasn’t harboring some gendered BS from the 50s, that had stymied her from living the life she felt she was meant to. And all this still happened. And my dad still stumbled around the guarded, gated Alzheimer’s facility, blind and crying, because he couldn’t see his wife or hear her accuse him of doing the only thing that would keep her safe. And now, people still talk about how much time she has left like it’s an anchor chain waiting to rust away, after which they’ll sail free.

How can I allow myself to become an anchor around the necks of the people I love most? Forcing them to long for my death as a kind of release from the long nightmare of Alzheimer’s?

I know, I know, there’s no answer anyone wants to hear. But I’ve allowed or coached myself to let go of most certainties in life. There isn’t any reason for me to rot around long enough to break everyone else’s certainties, of love and of their worthiness of it, if science or the law (or chance, I suppose) finds a way around that long, miserable road for me.