Friday, May 25, 2012

And Then

About 11:00 I turned off the tube and put down the book and ... I fell asleep. I'm not sure I was deeply asleep because I think I remember being aware that I was asleep and feeling happy about it.
Just a bit after midnight.
The phone rang.
Wrong number.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I did in fact finish Sister Citizen last night although I'm sure I'll be rereading it. When I picked it up I found The Drama of the Gifted Child underneath and wondered, after all that searching, if I should read it. I tried but it's just a bit overwrought. When it was time to sleep I realized that I wasn't able.
When I get up during the night it's because I need to go to the bathroom or something hurts. When the night starts that way it's usually because my head is racing.
I picked Sempre Susan from the stack and read until 1:00.
No matter how badly sleep I can't stay asleep once there's day light in the room. I used to love sleeping late. It felt transgressive. Most days I don't even nap.
A brief mention of Sontag's problematic mother comes fairly early in the book. Made me smile. Continuity of a sort. Sontag gifted her son with the same absent parenting but thought of herself as a great mother because of their adult relationship.
I realized another book is missing: Swimming in a Sea of Death. I keep staring at the shelf on which I think it should be as if I can will it to appear. Where do they hide?
It feels pretty good to have this much writing hit the page. It's rough and rambling but it's getting done and that feels good. But the theme of the problematic mother, albeit somewhat universal, is not sustainable. My sleep issues and daily activities aren't that compelling. My lost and found book shelves wont' go very far. Oh dear. Hummina. Hummina.
Sister Citizen organizes around the ways in which African American women are set into boxes of identity. MHP actually talks about the crooked room theory. The theory comes from cognitive psychology research in which people were put in a crooked room with a crooked chair and asked to align themselves vertically. Some people couldn't ... get straight. Heh. I think the Temple Grandin movie begins with her talking about the same experiment.
When I was quite a bit younger, decades really, I was out in a wooded area with some friends from high school  smokin a bit o da weed. From a bong. Someone dared me to drink the bong water, which I think might have been wine.
Of course.
I did.
Of course.
We were on a hill. When I stood up I kept trying to stand straight up from the hill. And I kept falling down. "I can't get straight!" And then we'd fall down laughing.
MHP extrapolates that, because of all the stereotypes of black women it as as if they are in a crooked room. They have to figure out how to align themselves in terms of identity.
Also a long time ago I put a picture in a journal in which a person is running and leaving a trail of masks behind them. For years I thought there was a more real me. I still think that's somewhat true. When I was at EA I never felt like people were very interested in the things I was interested in and I didn't know that much about games. Gamers have a culture with a language. I wasn't false there but I wasn't very much of myself. From the minute I left I felt myself expanding.
And then Mom comes for a visit.
Maybe in a crooked room it's OK to lean a bit.
And then fall down laughing.

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.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Clean Sheets

Because Mom lives in a retirement village there is always someone in the hospital, or dead. All but one of the houses on her block are occupied by new people because one member of a couple passed away and the other moved into a smaller place. The one neighbor who is still there told her she she should have known it would be this way. She struggles with why this person died and not that person. She sends cards to hospitals and care centers. She drives people to appointments. She struggles but it does make sense when people of a certain age start to break down. Mom is the only one she knows on no meds. She needs more naps and she gets confused but she's doing OK.
The grandson of a friend hung himself this week. It's not the first time Mom had heard about mental illness and she is completely confused by it. I think it's more upsetting to her than death.
Last night I woke up because of pain wandering around my body. My hip. My elbow. My thigh. And always. My knees. I gave up on sleeping and finished an article I'd been reading in Harper's, a memoir by Clancy Martin about his father's mental illness. I was surprised how well it fit in with my other recent reading. I've been dragging my heels on Are You My Mother because I don't want it to end. Before I'd tried to sleep I'd read a bit of it in which A.B. mentions Winnicott putting a boy out of his house. Winnicott worked with orphans and took in one of them but when the child acted out in a negative way Winnicott put him on the porch.
In Winterson's memoir her adoptive mother puts her out on the porch as punishment.
I finally fell asleep but not deeply.
I did laundry today. I was thinking how things like mopping the floor and doing laundry are things that end up on a check off list of chores until you hurt. Everything is harder. Everything feels like a big bleepin deal.
I don't really get why Winnicott put the kid on the porch. Something about communicating a true self. I should probably read more about it. Winterson's mother was just mean and crazy.
Most of the time I think the only thing we can give each other is presence. I've failed at that a time or two.
Clean sheets. Clean sheets might make sleeping easier.  


Monday, May 21, 2012

My Disquisition

From time to time I loose a book on my shelves. I have quite a few books but not so many for how often I have the experience. It's happened twice in the last few weeks. First I couldn't find Fun Home, which I noticed because I am reading Are You My Mother and wanted to refer to it. Turns out I lent it out. Something I really almost never do. And then The Drama of the Gifted Child. I wasn't totally sure I had a copy but I had a memory of it on a specific shelf. I looked at that shelf twenty or thirty times before I found it today. A.B. mentions it in her book and, again, I wanted to refer to it.
I'm really enjoying Are You My Mother? and think it's interesting that I'm reading it right after having finished Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?. Both books are about problematic mother/daughter relationships and so soon after I spent three months cooking in my own problematic mother/daughter relationship. Oddly enough I'm also watching the third season of In Treatment in which Drama of the Gifted Child was briefly mentioned.
A.B. embeds writings from Winnicott throughout her book. It's been a long time since I've read any kind of self analysis or psychological writing and now I'm swimming in it. And it's all useful. I don't think it's that hard to figure out psychological patterns. I think it's extremely hard to both parse and integrate what you learn. I think it's a cyclical process. The ideas from both Drama and Winnicott made sense to me the first and second and third time I read them but reading them now, in the middle of a comic, is sort of rocking my world. It's been comforting. It's been an affirmation of a kind of normalcy to my specific insanity.
This is not to say that I think understanding why you might be who you are is an end, or even a beginning. It's an endless process. I think it is liberating, or it can be but I also think it can be a trap. I often hear people explaining their behavior with a story from their past. And I do the same thing. I have often wondered if there is any value in understanding. Understanding can be passive. As a result of these books and to some extent watching In Treatment I am thinking in psychoanalytic terms.
My mother had her gallbladder removed shortly after I was born. Her mother came to help take care of me. My dad moved out at some point. Mom found out he'd been having an affair. We moved in with Granmom. All of this in the first three months of my life. If you've read Winnicott you can begin the diagnosis.
A.B. mentions Winterson in a blog post.

I want to return to Jeanette Winterson for a moment. In some interview I read with her recently, she said that she feels ill if she can’t read every day. And I would say that I start to feel a little ill, or at least hollow and insubstantial, if I can’t write every day—at least a very minimal diary entry or blog post about what I’ve been doing. And I haven’t been able to do that in many weeks now.

Wow. These women. I love these women.
My big goal for the day was to mop the kitchen floor. It's been my goal for more than a few days in a row but this morning I overfilled my compression pot and coffee spurted out as I lowed the plunger scalding my hand and making the floor look much worse. So, after much avoidance I finally pulled out the Swiffer. I was slow to buy a Swiffer because they are not environmentally sound. They are efficient and I am less able to do ... pretty much every thing. Efficiency makes things possible. I hit the button and nothing. I remembered that there were batteries but I couldn't remember exactly where. After much consternation (they fell on the floor twice) I figured it out. I managed to get it all done but I think the floor still needs work. The Swiffer cleaning stuff stinks. As an added bonus I dusted the table with Pledge. Also stinky. A lot to go through and now I end up with an apartment that smells like bad cleaning products.
The whole time I was thinking about my reading and this post was peculating. I have another post that I've been rewriting for several weeks. I suspect I'll delete it. I reads hollow and insubstantial.
A.B. also embeds Virginia Wolfe in the book.

What a disgraceful lapse! Nothing added to my disquisition, and life allowed to waste like a tap left running. Eleven days unrecorded. 


How it would interest me if this diary was to become a real diary: something in which I could see changes, trace moods developing: but then I should have to speak of the soul, and did not banish the soul when I began. What happens is, as usual, that I'm going to write about the soul and life breaks in.

These women.
I am always frustrated by how hard it seems to be to write now. Was it easier? Was I less self conscious?
Many days unrecorded. It isn't the number of days so much that bothers me. It's the dull witted soporific state of not being.
I found my book.