I listened to a parenting seminar on CD this morning. My daughter’s therapist gave it to me, and the looong preface that came with this particular loan rivaled even my wordiest attempts to clarify my experience. It was not a criticism, she said. She just really likes this particular guy and his theories and she thinks I might find some of what he has to say helpful. Maybe not. But worth a shot, yes? And she is worried that my current model of being is “not sustainable.”
That part made me laugh, actually. As if I am not aware that my current model of being is not sustainable. People who are drowning don’t think that they’re swimming and suddenly the whole dying thing is a surprise.
Among other things, ample time was given in this presentation to that whole “put on your own oxygen mask” metaphor, and lord knows I have tried to get with this program in the past, but mostly it makes me want to punch people, because when you’re at the point where people make worried eyebrows and start talking about oxygen masks, there are no cheerful yellow masks falling from the ceiling to save you.
Words are always how I have made sense of my experience. Words are always how I have best connected with others, particularly those I love the most. I talk too much. I write too much. I say (and write) the wrong things. I can say “I love you” fifty times and they will all be forgotten in favor of that one time in the middle of an argument when I said “You are just being ridiculous.”
The parenting expert on the CD, he says to stop talking so much. I mean, he’s not specifically saying it to ME, but he’s saying it in general, and his reasoning is sound. And heaven knows if there was ever a parent who needed to just shut the fuck up already, it is me. I know.
So here’s the thing, short and sweet: Things were great. And then they weren’t. And that is the nature of this particular hand our family has been dealt. When I am being rational, I know this is the expected course of events and very little of what I do or don’t do actually influences that.
When I am being irrational, I listen to that stupid CD and feel at turns enraged that Mr. Oxygen Mask is blaming me for talking and also convinced that yes, it’s me, I TALK TOO MUCH, I made everything fall apart, it’s always me. I said things were good. I said it out loud, I said it on the blog, maybe I tempted fate, maybe she read it and it felt like pressure when really it was just gratitude. Maybe things were already falling apart and it felt like I don’t understand, like I never understand.
I can’t regret trying to make sense of things. Ever. That’s the path to hopelessness. And I have always, will always, try to limit my public words to those which are respectful—of my family, of privacy—without letting the shitty stuff win. Because I really believe that when you can’t talk about it because “what will people think” you are granting even more power to the monster that is already robbing your family of normalcy.
And then I write “monster” and I mean sickness and/or pain; but I worry she will come read this and think I am calling HER a monster. I would never. Obviously. But the words, they get twisted, particularly when oversensitive, struggling brains try to make sense of what probably feels like a very hostile world. And I know all of this, so do I stop talking? Just in case? How do I make sure I never say anything that could end up being harmful, other than to stop talking?
There are days when “I love you” is the wrong thing, even. Nothing is the right thing. I can’t fix it. I am wrong if I stay calm and I am wrong if I react and I am everything that is wrong when all I want to do is make it all right. I want to be able to say “I love you” and she feels it, knows it, and it helps. Maybe that’s selfish of me. I just want her to be okay; if she can be okay and know that my bumbling and talking too much are only because I am hurting and scared for her, fine, but that part isn’t necessary. The being okay, though, I need that for her.
It’s not about oxygen masks. It’s about figuring out how to live without oxygen, somehow. I don’t know yet how that works. I’m trying to understand.