Sunday, April 4, 2010

Unresolved, or In Progress (?)

I think I should tell you, he starts. I’m always a little suspicious of this breed of conversational starting place. It ranks right up there with “good news/bad news” and “now, don’t worry but….”
Last night, Blaise was very sad. He told me that he didn’t understand why you would give him Theodore and give Simon to Sabine, when Simon is his favourite chipmunk.
Something in me snaps.

Another stupid, petty failure. Another time I put myself out, executed an idea I thought was good, and it flopped. Another time that I tried to create happiness and instead produced the opposite – disappointment.

Fine. I give up (really?). I won’t try to make anyone happy (do you think you can “make” someone else happy?). I won’t try to be thoughtful and caring, because it doesn’t matter anyway (who are you to judge outcomes by only what you see?). It always ends this way (it doesn’t).


I feel this. I feel it. I feel overwhelmed, disappointed, angry, self-righteous, hard-done-by, put-upon, unappreciated, unloved. I feel regret for the moment where the decision went wrong, angry with myself for not avoiding it, frustrated knowing the exact twist that would have erased this present painful moment from the timeline. That my feelings are wrong only makes shame the cherry on top.

I feel frustrated by the futility of life and effort. I feel this, and it hurts it hurts it hurts and I want it OUT OUT OUT.

I want to SMASH. I want to SLAM. I want to SCREAM.

I want to blame, judge and punish. In this moment, I want it more than anything. It consumes me. It clutches my heart and clamps my lungs, demanding explosive, physical release.

I can’t hold still. Tears are starting to stream and I almost run from the bathroom without a glance at him. Where do I go? To the other bathroom, where I slam the door (wasn't that satisfying?) pace and stew and brush my teeth vehemently while my mind picks over the threads of the memory, once again identifying the moment, renewing and feeding the emotional swell.

I want to eradicate, negate the entire circumstances of this inconvenient, over-compensating pain. I find myself banging out into the hallway, barging into their empty rooms, grabbing the offending chipper chipmunks out of their beds and squeezing their puffy little middles with malice.

I stomp back into his bathroom (you need an audience) stuff the toys violently into the garbage can, and stomp out again. I feel his resigned disapproval as a polluted vapour that gets in my nose, hair, skin, eyes.

Through his eyes I see the level of unbalance between circumstances and my reaction. This knowledge encourages my mind to draw forward previous memories of failure, lack of appreciation, inability to bring happiness. There, see, it’s all reasonable. This moment symbolizes my impotence in the face of the world’s wrongs. Maybe I’m not upset enough.

Back to my bathroom. Wash my face. Water like a warm relief and release.

I hope he takes them out of the garbage. Oh, how stupid. Oh, I can’t believe I did that. What is wrong with me? What is wrong with me? Now I have to live with the shame that he’s seen me so ridiculous, so out of control. I feel defeated by myself.

I walk slowly back to his bathroom. I take the offending chubby-cheeks out of the garbage. I brush them off. Damn. I’ll have to launder them now, won’t I?

Before I even speak I know I’ve come back too soon. I feel it but I don’t leave. I still can’t let it go.

I should give them to charity. Maybe someone will actually appreciate them.
He says nothing. It’s a perfectly reasonable response. I’m so frustrated with him saying nothing (he’s afraid of you). If he loved me he would know what I need (because love makes him a mind reader?). He should help me.

I make the mistake of sharing that thought out loud.

He deftly avoids taking responsibility for my stuff, but I persist in demanding his help as proof of love. THINK ABOUT ME! SPEND SOME TIME THINKING ABOUT HOW TO HELP ME! Don’t just give up with a shrug – oh well, I’ll just wait until you’re calm, then I’ll deal with you.
I don’t know how to deal with you when you’re like that.
So you pull back.
Yes, I pull back. What else would I do?
I feel that as a removal of love. I feel your pulling back as, I love you this far and no further. I love you, but.  I love you except.  I love you despite.  I love the part of you that doesn’t resort to this level of immature behaviour. Not right through your core, just to the outer edges
And I find, as I’m working through all this, that I really do want his help, though I’m sure I’ll be ashamed if he offers it. Maybe having him on my side instead of watching in judgment would make me feel less alone and powerless against my worst self.

He starts the water for the shower, then turns to me.

What do you want me to do? he asks, his voice tired and resigned, borderline dejection. I’m certain he is regretting the moment he told me about the disappointment as much as I regret the moment that created the disappointment. Probably more.

He’s asked a reasonable question. I strain to force my brain to organize around an answer.
Maybe you could…ask me a question?
What question?
Again I feel the swell of annoyance. He’s not willing to put himself out for me (maybe he doesn’t know how). He’s not willing to even try to think about it for himself (it’s not his responsibility, it’s yours).

If I want his support I’ll have to spoon feed him all the steps and make it easy. It smacks of lack of commitment. It feels like lack of caring. (he’s tired too, he’s under so much strain keeping the money coming in, he’s not able to pursue his dreams, he has no energy left. Give him a break).


I feel petulant in my wrongness. Alone, ultimately alone. The shower is still wastefully pounding out water, steaming the room and demanding that this conversation come to a close so life can move on.

Okay, I sigh. Have your shower. I’ll go get ready.

I leave. I go back to the other bathroom. I cry. I feel. I stop thinking and feel and feel, and once the thinking lets go its tight fist, the feeling gradually becomes its own vapour and seeps from me, dissipating and leaving me raw, heavy, done.

I long to connect.  I walk back into his bathroom. I peek in the shower curtain.
I’ve changed my mind.
About what?
About leaving without a hug. I need to touch you.
I reach in, put my arm around his wet waist, spray spritzing my face and hair.
Now you’re all wet.
He steps toward me, we hug carefully to minimize my soaking, then I just relax into his chest, not really caring. He sighs heavily, his chin resting on my head. He seems relieved in a sad, confused kind of way.

Okay. This is as far as we’re getting today. I’m no longer convinced there is anything to take further. I'm tired.

Leaving the bathroom, I go to Blaise.“What? What, mom?” he demands in a whiney singsong, his tone hinting at something derogatory about the word mom. I’m struck by his sudden boy-ness, the complete lack of baby in this four-year-old person.

We sit on the red sofa.
I think I let you down.

I saw these chipmunks (I hold up Theodore) and thought, Blaise and Sabine would like these!
But you gave Simon to Sabine, and Simon is my FAVOURITE chipmunk, he wails.

Remember, I hid them behind my back, and you picked the one on the left, and Sabine picked the one on the right. That’s how you got Theodore.


I didn’t remember that Simon was your favourite. I thought you would like them both equally.

I’m actually surprised that you like Simon so much. He’s kinda bossy.

(laughs) Yeah.

I might have thought you’d like Theodore better. He likes to laugh and play and tell jokes.

(lighter, higher voice; quiet) He likes to tell jokes…

What jokes?


What jokes does he tell?
(um…he WOULD ask that, wouldn’t he?)
Maybe knock-knock jokes?

Okay. Thanks mom, thanks anyway.
He gives me an awkward hug.
I’m going downstairs now, okay?
(pause) Yes. Okay.


Life would be easier if I could just feel less.

Post Script - So, what actually happened the previous day?
We had finally decided that the persistent cough was getting worse, not better, and a doctor must be seen. Anticipating a hectic Good Friday crowd at the walk in clinic, I packed food and, at the last second, remembered the plush chipmunks I’d picked up a few weeks ago for just such an occasion. I threw them in the bag before running out the door.

The crowds weren’t too bad, but the kids were impatient. I decided the time was right to pull out the chipmunks. I wondered for a moment which to give to which child. If I let them choose, they tend to choose the same one and fight. I thought, I’ll avoid all that. I hid them behind my back.

I have a surprise for you, I said. Pick a hand. As I pulled my hands from behind my back, I thought I felt him go for the other hand the instant before I gave them each their own chipmunk. I chose to attribute his lack of enthusiasm to the fever.

Knowing that I knew doesn't exactly help.