Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Narrative Line

When Mom was here I do laundry every week. She wants clean bedding and towels and (no matter how much I ask her to bring more) she only packs enough underwear for a week. Laundry on Saturday is a ritual for her. I did it on Wednesday, which corresponded with a bath day. At home she can shower on her own but my shower is inside a bath tub and she needs my help to get in and out. I also tuck her in when she is here and on laundry day I say, clean body, clean sheets, clean nighty gown, sweet dreams. Are these the actions of a devoted daughter caring for an elderly parent or the pathology of a child still trying to earn her mother's love?
Both, I think.
I finished Are You My Mother? last night. I pushed myself to do it and had the beginnings of a headache and mild nausea when I was done. What would Freud say? Freud makes an appearance in the book as does Lacan. I so admire A.B. taking on reading these guys on her own. I had to be assigned Freud before I'd read him. I'm glad I did. He annoys me but I'm glad I read him. A.B. makes a reluctant acknowledgement of how aspects of her family seem to validate some of his most dubious theories. I read Jung on my own and some Lacan. I wanted to understand the mirror thing. I'm still not sure I do. These things are easier to unpack when you can discuss them.
I fell asleep in my chair. Book still in hand. Woke up an hour later and got between the clean sheets. Woke up every hour after that. The sheets smelled good and felt good but sleep eluded me. I go for weeks like this.
My head and stomach aches diminished after the first hour and were gone by morning. I really think my internal process is working over time right now.
For years I've saved all of my New Yorkers, Harper's and any other magazine or journal I may have grabbed. Recently I decided to give them to Debbie. She says they're piling up in her apartment now. I wanted to reread the article about A.B. and thought I could accesses it on line because I have a subscription. After a bunch of mishigas I did but you get bounced out after awhile. Annoying because I kept leaving to think about it and then I'd go through the mishigas again. New York Magazine had an article about Are You My Mother? and Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?, which says a bunch of obvious things that I hadn't noticed.
Winterson writes like a novelist and A.B. writes like ... well mostly she draws and the the writings is almost expository. The New York Magazine piece says that A.B's memoir struggles with a narrative line and doesn't have a beginning. I didn't feel like that was true but oddly I thought Winterson had no ending. I didn't mind. It felt right. I wonder if these women had any idea they would both be publishing memoirs with similar themes in the same time frame.
In the middle of the day I ordered a pizza. After eating a nap took me. That's how it feels. The nap grabs me and pulls me in. Probably some glycemic reaction combined with my fitful sleeping.
My reading table is one chapter away from being clear. This is not to say that I'm out of reading material. Kristina has made sure I never will be and Debbie loads me up on my birthday and Christmas. But there are always a stack of magazines and currently-reading books on a table near my chair. One more chapter of Sister Citizen and I'm done. There's another stack of pick-me-next books near the door from the living room to the bed and bathroom. Every time I walk past it I scan the titles. What next?
I think some of who we are, the parts that form so early, hold us as much as we hold them. Most of self work is about awareness. Change is a chronic nagging demand. Easy enough to ignore but there's a price to pay when we do. I think there is a true self and a false self but I think both are real, both are creative and both are ... who we are.
I take out my nose ring when Mom is here. I get my hair cut. I haven't always been so accommodating. She's endured me bra-less and tattooed and with a shaved head. She's eighty-six. I'm less than a month away from fifty-nine. I think I know how real we can be with each other. I've always known. It hurts some times. It's amusing some times. It's a problematic dynamic. I don't think we become whole by slicing off the problematic parts our self. And they draw the narrative line.


April said...

Your insight about "true self" vs (or not versus, really) "false self" feels particularly important to me today.

Tish said...

I wish we could have a coffee and talk about it.