Tag Archives: fear

The Fear-Killer

4 Jan

The Fear-Killer

I fear.

But fear is the mind-killer

(so Dune says)

so I accept boredom instead,

the mind-number

that will let me flit from thought to thought

without falling in so many of these dredges,

high as a kite from not paying attention

’cause if I can’t see you

then you can’t see me

(so says the rules of childhood)

so it must be the same with pain too, right?

I do not accept melancholy

but it comes anyway,

the mind-trapper.

The slow sludge death of neurons cannabilizing themselves

in an attempt not to feel at all,

something so much more empty than numbness.

I am told not to accept nothingness

but I make it come anyway,

the mind-ender.

I do not face it with fear but with relief.

Fear is dead.

I am the fear-killer.

Poem: Dark One

14 Jul

Dark One

I worry I am too much chaos. You stand there, in your sweet and indeterminable beauty, and you think I am frail because you see me cower. But I am only crouching, trying to hide from you my soul as it glowers.

I am a stormy soul, oh light one. I worry I might obliterate you if we were to crash together.

Insanity so easily swallows up naked possibility.

I’m worried we would go insane, if I tried to swallow you.

But you are so tempting, you over there with your soft breezes and gentle kisses blown at me with a wave. Your fingers chide my suspicion so cheerfully.

I am fearful to wave back; I do not trust my darkened sensibilities. They can so quickly snuff a greeting so bright as yours.

Ah, but you might taste so sweet, as I devoured you…

And the end of what you promised – well, death need not always be a wretched case.

But would it be so easy for me to say that then as I watched you limp away, wounded?

Misogyny, Misandry, and Father’s Day

15 Jun

I hate Father’s Day. I by no means hate fathers. I don’t even really hate my father. I just hate the nationally celebrated day that will overstuff my Facebook and Twitter feeds and force me to think over and over again about the complicated relationship I’ve had since, well, ever with that terrible, wonderful, intimidating word. Father.

Honestly, I’m pretty confused about how I happened. Yes, yes, I do technically know how I happened. I have two heterosexual, reasonably fertile parents with differently sexed genitalia. I remember that talk my school gave us back in sixth grade. But as for the why of that how – I am confused, since I’m generally under the impression that my parents have been fighting since before I was even born. But apparently passion, like humans and their human relationships, is a complicated thing.

And so I was born, thanks to the complicatedness of existence. Naturally, that meant that my existence has been consequentially complicated too.

I know that there were good times with my father while I was growing up. Afternoons of hide and seek, nights of my father’s consenting to play barbies before bed. My dad is the reason I was thrown into the water and turned into such an aqueous creature so early on. There were giggles and smiles.

But there were tears, too. Oh so many, many tears. And I, built for better or for worse to register the negative over the positive, tend to remember those tears first and foremost. I was three or four the first time I encountered the word “divorce.” My parents were shouting it at each other downstairs in the kitchen. I heard them from my hiding place, crouched just around the corner at the top of the stairs, where they couldn’t see me. I heard my father shouting, his yells deep and growling. I heard my mother shriek back, her words shrill and defensive. Even at three, I knew that one of those timbres was the one with the threat, and one of them was not. My mother’s yelling carries hysteria. My father’s yelling carries violence. His is the anger that has always scared me more.

Now, at the age of 23, I understand that my father is human, a damaged individual with a backstory of dysfunction that explains so much of his threats and narcissism and alcoholism and distance. He is doing the best he can with what he himself was given to work with. But at the age of three, that higher reasoning hadn’t kicked in yet. All I knew was that my father, the man I was supposed to believe was there to protect me, was someone of whom I was deeply, deeply afraid. And while that is something I have come to understand, it is not something I can yet entirely forgive.

I grew up living in fear. The man who taught me that promises are important with the force behind the words he used to tell me that he would always keep them is also the man who taught me more with his actions just why that is when he broke oh so many of them. The man who said he would always be there for me, no matter what, is also the man I would come to think of as “the bachelor who happens to be married to my mother” because of how often he was away on business, golf trips, hunting vacations, or affairs.

I am so much of who I am because of having preferred the counter examples to him. I am trusting because my father is manipulative. I am a giver because my father is a salesman. I am a pacifist because my father is a predator. I am widely accepting because my father can only believe that what he wants is right. I will ask for help because my father will keep on blundering ahead. I am supportive because my father is so critical. I lack so much self-confidence because my father is so self-assured.

I am perhaps equal parts broken and strong because of how I have reacted to my father’s lessons, direct or otherwise. I have spent a lifetime trying to defend who I am as a woman because of the man who acted as if women are nothing more than pretty tools for his disposal. I grew up expecting to be assaulted, in one way or another.

And yet, his misogyny has not instilled in me an equal misandry. Yes, for much of my life, I was flat-out afraid of males. My all-girls school education and sheltered childhood spared me having to interact with guys on any sort of regular basis. But the occasional visit from male neighbors, or uncles, or cousins, or, you know, going to a restaurant and having to talk to a male server – I was routinely petrified.

A slow introduction to the male half of the human race and a college education at a male-heavy college where I was the only girl in the room often enough that I eventually stopped noticing has helped a bit, but there is still some amount of inherent distrust in me. I was taught, by action rather than doctrine, that males are a people who could very, very easily hurt me. Physically or otherwise.

And yet, I have also grown up craving male attention. Approval. Affection. The things that I did not at all register sufficiently getting from my father. It was somewhere around middle school when I first realized just how desperately I was searching for a surrogate father. I had a male music teacher, and after I’d used an untraditional medium for a project in his music appreciation class, I asked him over and over again, for something like a week, whether or not that had been okay. The answer was obviously yes, every time. I stopped asking after I realized, in a moment of horror, that I was continuing to ask the same question of this music teacher not because I was still unsure of whether or not how I’d done the project had actually been okay, but because I knew that it was, and I wanted to hear the music teacher say that. I wanted to hear him tell me that yes, it had been a good idea. Yes, it had been okay. Yes, I was okay. Yes, he approved of me.

Hello, daddy issues.

I have since worked very, very hard to pull back those daddy-seeking tendrils. There’s been a lot of therapy.

And yet, somehow, I continue to become close to males who treat me in some way or other like my father did. I actively try not to, try to make friends and lovers of the guys who display qualities that I value, rather than qualities I grew up fearing. Still, I too often wind up with quick-tempered, stormy friends. Guys who will say things with their words and never follow through with their actions. Recently, I realized that I was staying with a guy who completely ignored me because I feared my emotional turmoil of a life would be harder without the paltry reassurance I got from that flimsy titular relationship than it was with it.

In other words, I was staying with him for the exact same reason my mother has stayed with my father. Down to the very words she’d used to explain it to me.

We broke up shortly thereafter.

So. Father’s Day. Such a complicated day for me. “Father” is the word for the man who gave me my first real taste of misogyny. “Father” is the word for the man who made me seek so desperately a desire to find his counterexample, rather than falling into easy misandry. “Father” is the word for the man who was causative for so many of the bricks that build me, and for the cracks in them as well. “Father” is the word for the thing I view with equal parts despisement and yearning.

“Father” is a word that has only ever been associated with the word “happy” in a negative sense. So how can I not hate the phrase “Happy Father’s Day?” There is so much unfulfilled wishing in that phrase for me. So much history, so many complications and contradictions.

I find it difficult to wish people an oxymoron.

Late

17 Jan

time storm

I hate being late. And by “hate,” I mean honest-to-goodness hate. For most of my childhood, I had what was pretty damn near a phobia of being late. To school. To a friend’s house. To a movie. If my mother went to get concessions after we’ve picked our seats, I’d stare back at the auditorium doors in frozen, petrified, high-pitched-whine kind of fear until she got back. Because what if the line was really long and she didn’t get back till after the movie started? What if they didn’t let her in because they’d already closed the auditorium doors??? (I didn’t quite understand the way that movie theaters worked back at age seven…) Same thing happened if we were flying somewhere. What if we got the airport too late and didn’t make it through security on time??? I basically held my breath through the entire line. And then once we got to the gate, I practically refused to let anyone, especially my mother, leave to – oh, say, got to the bathroom, or get breakfast. Because what if she didn’t make it back on time and the plane left without her??? I always carried with me some sense of dread foreboding, that being late was either going to bring irrepudiation crashing down on me in a burning criticism of my evident laziness or would otherwise cause something to go horridly, painfully wrong. It’s like if I were late to something, than life turned into a scary, ravenous monster that was going to tear apart me and my hopes and dreams with its gnashing teeth and then gobble down all the fragments.

I was a very imaginative child.

Sure, I’ve gotten a *bit* less neurotically anxious about the whole “being a few minutes late” thing. But still, there is the preference in me to be absurdly early than even the tiniest bit tardy. And when life happens and I pass the “few minutes late” threshold, I still haven’t entirely figured out how to handle it.

Like… I still expect to be forevermore considered a terrible human being (or employee or volunteer or friend or whatever) for showing up late. Egregiously late. Like this morning, when I somehow managed to miss my 8:20 am alarm (did I sleep through it? did my phone lie to me last night about the alarm being set? did the alarm just never go off this morning? who knows…) and woke up to some random 9:20 am alarm that I’d set for several days ago.

“Oh, great!” you might be thinking. “So you did at least wake up to one alarm!”

Yeah, ONE ALARM THAT WENT OFF TWENTY MINUTES AFTER I WAS ALREADY SUPPOSED TO BE AT WORK!!!

There was a great deal of groaning and panicking and frustration and indecision in the few minutes more I remained in my bed, eyes tightly clasped shut and hands clenched into fists around my blankets as if I could will the world to go back an hour. I’d awoken from yet another stream of nightmares (dearest brain of mine, what the fuck is wrong???) and felt pretty pummeled. So, you know, my usual morning start. But hey, I’d slept through an alarm while presumable trapped in one of my sickening nightmares, and woken up with a bit of a raw feeling in my throat. Again, typical and after one downed cup of coffee I’d be functional, but not exactly the picture of health, at least mentally so.

So, I’m lying there in bed, seething with regret at the iniquity that was my having over slept, wondering what the fuck I should do about work. I only had a two hour shift that morning, 9 to 11, and it was already 9:30. By the time I’d get to work, it would be 9:40. Aaaaagh.

Should I call my supervisor and explained that I’d overslept and was feeling a bit under the weather (I’d done that before, when I’d awoken two hours late to find myself dripping with sinus infection, and hey, my mental state certainly wasn’t sporting the brightest of blue skies) and that sorry, I wouldn’t be coming in today? Should I try to obliterate myself back into unconsciousness and email my supervisor later with basically the same spiel? Should I whip my ass out of bed and hurtle it across campus and offer as penitent an apology as I could muster?

Some of you might be sitting there at your computers (or smartphones) with raised eyebrows wondering, “What’s the big deal? You were late. You’re human, it happens. Suck it up and just go to work.”

To which I respond, you all are entirely reasonable. Yes. That “what’s the big deal” statement is in fact the correct answer. Especially since my supervisor is one of the nicest, most understanding women I know. I am not in fact entirely certain whether she actually even has the capability of raising her voice at well-meaning employees who normally are on top of their shit but occasionally have issues with the whole “non-disordered sleeping” business.

So yeah, eventually I did get my ass out of bed and into jeans and across campus to my job by 9:40 am. And my punishment for such a tardy appearance? A good-natured laugh from my supervisor. The slim Asian woman did not in fact turn into an unappeasable time monster waiting to rip me into morsel-sized shreds. Go figure.

I think my remaining trepidation about being late is a continued vestige of my tendency towards the all-or-nothing kind of thinking. I either know how to figure out a homework problem or I’m afraid to even start trying. I’m either a brilliant employee who’s always on time or a mess of a wasted paycheck. I’m either gloriously happy in my relationship or cripplingly insecure.

Sure, a lot of this all-or-nothingness is constrained – might I say bottled? – within me, so it doesn’t actually get outwardly expressed in actions. It’s not like I’m always toggling between chanting “om” and flipping a shit about falling sky. Outwardly, there’s mediation.

But holy fuck is there a tempest inside.

And I know when I’m being all-or-nothing. Putting on those negative lenses. Responding irrationally in the feels department. I know the what’s going on with the weather forecast, but being able to psychologically categorize what’s going on doesn’t mean the rain’s pelting the windows to my soul any less hard. My frame still thunders and rattles and shakes. I still worry that I will be stormed off my hinges.

I think that I worry so about being late because I am afraid that one day, I really am going to miss something important. And then, I will be left out in the open with the storm and the waste-laying time monster.

And then, there will be no more seconds left to run.

Resumés

18 Dec

Resumés

When you’re a child they tell you
when you grow up to do what you love,
but the world won’t pay for that –
so instead we fall into ranks of what someone else decided
we are qualified for,
based on the greed rumbling in the world’s belly
and the lust leering out its eyes this week,
just like someone before them decided that this was all
they were qualified for,
a long line of other people who know only your merest casing
deciding what you’re good for in life.
It doesn’t matter what you love.
The world loves extraordinary,
but banishes different.
It’s a hard place to get along.
And it’s not technology that’s distanced us
but the leeriness of what might happen if we really set to it.
There was always something there,
to mask that fear under the stank of unproductivity.
Fear is too subtle a scent to be detected under a louder assault.
And so instead of facing the constant possibility
that we might not be good enough,
we click on a new browser, open another tab,
and while away the hours with the distraction of others
doing exactly the same thing,
because we’re all afraid of the demons inside us.
Technology didn’t make them –
it’s just one more curtain we use to pretend they aren’t there.
Maybe we’re the ones that made them,
telling each other that in the end, it doesn’t matter what you love.
That this is all you’ll ever be good for.
Because we’ve been taught to size each other by the merest casings.
It’s hard, for a ghost to ever prove substance.

The Fear of What Comes Next

18 Aug

Recently, there was a Times article entitled ‘Having It All Without Having Children.’ I haven’t read the entire piece, but my impression is that it generally discusses views on having children and why that is or is not a good idea for various couples and how attitudes are changing about the “selfishness” of child-free couples.

Now, since I haven’t actually read the entire article I can’t guarantee this, but I got the feeling that it probably didn’t cover a few of the reasons that women I’ve known have had for being hesitant to have children. Reasons that will cause most people to just shut their mouths and nod.

But I also thought of the women I’ve known who could have had those same reasons and went ahead and had children anyway. And honestly, I think those women are incredibly brave. To decide to take the risk and have another kid after a couple already has one child born with autism or blindness or leukemia… To decide to try again, and again and again and again, after the trauma of miscarrying… To decide to invest a piece of what made your soul and your biology in another person when you’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression or bipolar disorder or bulimia… I’m not sure I could make those decisions.

And so this is a poem for all those women who have stared in the face of the fear of what comes next, and had a child anyway. And this is a poem, too, for all those who have known that fear and quietly, determinedly said no, I will not.

empty swing

The Fear of What Comes Next

You look at me and wonder –
what if it would turn out just like you?
You think about the nights you have lost,
rocking me in a cradle, colicky and cold
beyond any warmth the touch of your fingers would give.
You think about the moments upon moments of delusion,
when you hoped that this was just a phase,
and the little face looking back at you would smile some day,
and call you mama.
You wonder if the next one, like me, would never, not once,
be able to say that word.
You decided you will not give nature and chance
any more cruel opportunity.

You look at me and wonder –
what if it would turn out just like you?
You think about the nights you have lost,
staring bleary-eyed at that reflection in the mirror,
across the sink, over the pill bottles your shaky hand fingers.
You think about the moments upon moments of delusion,
when you hoped that this was just a phase,
and the nakedness looking back at you would smile some day,
and call you unbroken.
You wonder if the next one, like me, would never, not once,
be able to say that word.
You decided you will not give nature and chance
any more cruel opportunity.

And so they turn away from him, with that damn hopeful look in his eyes,
and say it’s late. Perhaps in the morning.