Don’t know any more anymore

I don’t know any more. I don’t know any more, less every day. Don’t care anymore what I know, or don’t know, if ever I did. There was a writing prompt that asked me to consider if I felt connected, connected other people, connected to the world. If not, why? And…was there a time when I felt more connected? Well, hell, I don’t know anymore. I could not know less, I don’t think. Feeling connected…I’m not entirely sure what that means. I’ve always felt somewhat detached from just about everything at some point. My persistent overlay is obligation. At any given time, I’m doing whatever it is that I am doing because I am more or less obligated to do so. The obligation probably arises from some choice that I’ve made, but sometimes I feel that my choices are themselves obligatory. I suppose I don’t feel that I own my Self entirely. Very strange, if you ask me.

But…I am asking me. Why is it that I don’t feel as though I own my Self? I suppose it’s an old habit to feel that way, back when I was a kid and felt that I had no privacy, even in my own thoughts. Always hiding, always furtively covering up some part of how I was really living, what I was really doing. If you knew what I was really thinking, mommy, you would hate me like you hate my daddy. If anybody knew who I really was they would realize that I am A. Bad. Person and should be…I don’t know…destroyed. Or something. Every aspect of discipline and how I walked through the world was based on “you don’t see anybody else doing that, do you?”. No, I didn’t see anybody else afraid to order candy from the candy counter, but then I didn’t really see anybody doing much of anything. We were pretty isolated…didn’t have parties or lots of visitors, weren’t constantly going to visit other people. I think when I was really young we did…we’d go to see my father’s brother and sister, and my cousins. Sometimes they’d visit us. I remember us going to City Park and having picnics some times, me and all my cousins. I don’t remember being tense about anything, about doing anything wrong, until…sometimes…on the way home, or back at the house, when it was just me and them. There was always some kind of critique of the interactions, and usually I was chided for having said or done something out of line, said the wrong thing, was too “sassy” to an adult, was too smart alecky, something. Always something. I came to anticipate that post-event critique, and I think it did afford me a bit of anxiety. No matter. Other families do that, you know, and you don’t see them getting all upset about it, now do you? Go ask them. You’ll find out, you big baby.

Pretty early on, it was more about me not measuring up to what experts agreed I should be doing, or saying, or being. Later, while I stayed a focal point of the analysis, things got way more tense between my parents. That was good in a way, because I could just slip away and occupy myself in my room, but it was also bad in a more profound way. They would get to arguing about something, usually my mother taking exception to something my father had said or done or thought (yes, she was a psychic, that woman) or something he didn’t do or didn’t say or didn’t think. That was pretty nuts, especially since he rarely said 10 words during the whole harangue, but it would go on…and on…and fuckin on. Hours. I would sometimes go to sleep when they had been at it for a couple of hours, and wake up the next morning with the argument still going strong. I don’t know how my father held a job all that time, seeing as how he didn’t get a lot of sleep. But, this was the model I had for a relationship. You chose a partner for any number of reasons, not the least of which was obligation, and then you proceeded to let them know they weren’t worth much of anything and they were of no value to you or anyone else, for that matter. OK, yeah. Got it. Love has absolutely nothing to do with anything.

Did I feel connected back then, to anything? I suppose I did, because I didn’t know how to disconnect. These people were in my head, in my space, in my sould…all the time. I’m sure that’s pretty much the case for any family unit, but when their occupation of your persona is more a menace than a Pleasant Valley Sunday (that’s a Monkee’s song, from the late 60s or early 70s I think, and it’s been in my head a lot for some reason). I always felt like I was living a double life, even then, because I understood clearly they were putting up a front to the outside world. I was always petrified that if I had people over they would see what a lie we lived – we didn’t have money, or nice things, no good toys, no big television set for watching cartoons or movies. I’m still kind of like that, fearing that people will know who I am if they ever come over here and saw how I really live. But I digress….

This whole issue of feeling that when left to my own devices, in my own habitat as it were, I am more or less a different person than who I present as socially. It’s a learned behavior for the most part, a response to all that tension and pretense. Everyone, to this day, believes my mother to have been a gracious and well mannered lady, sweet and kind, and totally in your corner if you were one of her students. Her lawyer said she had class. I always felt that I was keeping a mammoth secret from the whole rest of the world, because when people said those things to me, I smiled politely and nodded. But I was ashamed, because I felt that I was lying. I knew they would have been incredulous if they could have seen her throwing a bag of fudge from the Sears candy counter on the floor, and then jumping up and down on it repeatedly while cussing my father out in the most vile fashion possible. She was angry because he had bought the fudge, and brought it home for us all to enjoy, and it had pecans or walnuts in it. She berated him shamefully for that, accusing him of purposely bringing home something she couldn’t eat…he KNEW she had no gall bladder and couldn’t eat nuts, so he had done that on purpose, just to screw with her. That was her story. I don’t recall him making a rebuttal, but he was most definitely a man of few words under normal circumstances, let alone having a crazy woman jumping on a bag on fudge. He retreated to the bedroom, she followed, and I picked up the bag of flattened fudge and at the whole thing. It was pretty good fudge, and peeled off the slightly waxy inside paper of the bag. It was a good day.

Peace was not a commodity that we dealt in, my family. I never knew that was a desired outcome, because I had no frame of reference for it. All I knew was that it took a lot of effort to live in that house, and to get through any given day. After my father left the house to live elsewhere, I thought it would get easier, but it really didn’t. My mother turned a lot of her rage and frustration on me, and so I assumed the role of a surrogate spouse in many respects. Fortunately, that role did not call for violation of any sexual boundaries. Fortunately. But the remainder of my child’s role and my parents’ roles were entirely inappropriate, and hopelessly enmeshed. It was normal, so I didn’t know that it wasn’t normal for everyone else. I knew something wasn’t right, though, but had no vocabulary with which to express that. So…when kids don’t know how to say what’s wrong, or how to fight against it, they act out. So I did. All things considered, I was pretty ineffective and mild – never got hauled home by the police, never got kicked out of school, never got thrown out of school or out of any extracurricular activities. But it was pretty stressful, with just about everything I did or didn’t do bumped up against the litmus test of whether or not my mother would find out. If she did, I didn’t even want to think about what might happen, but I knew it couldn’t be good.

Fear of my mother kept me more or less in line for much of my life. That was not entirely a bad thing, but it was entirely a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I didn’t manage to get into unredeemable, or at least undoable, situations. I didn’t have life-changing consequences, like jail time or anything. But, the lines I stayed within were entirely her lines, not my own, and so I complied out of obligation and not so much agreement – or even understanding at times – that compliance was a good thing. Oppositional defiance was a constant gleam in my eye, and remains so. I’m sure I was born with those wires crossed, but there was good conductivity for the short circuit. Obligatory morality, obligatory compliance, obligatory thoughts. I still function quite a bit on obligation, but I resent the hell out of it, then as now.

So, did I feel connected to things back then? I don’t know if I felt connection or just a resignation to the routine. The routine didn’t fulfill me, but it met expectations because other than wanting to join the roller derby (without, of course, being able to skate) I really had no dreams. When I did, they were made light of because they didn’t conform to practical…obligations. I was supposed to aspire to making a living, like everybody else did, being respectable, Going to church, having a family of my own, blah blah and blah. Obligations. That’s how I got here in the first place…my parents felt obligated to do what was expected of them, to get married and be respectable. Until they couldn’t keep up the obligation any longer, at least not my father, and then it was a flash-bang and hey, Rocky – watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat, said Bullwinkle. And he did. And then he disappeared entirely. Joke was on us.

I have no coherent idea why this is all coming up in response to a prompt about being connected, but there it is. I am not going anywhere today…it’s already 4pm, and I have not interacted with another living human all day. And that’s fine. Some days it just be like that. Tomorrow will be different…it will be Monday (another Manic Monday) and that, of course, will be different from today, which is Sunday. I feel a little tired today, actually, feeling some hangover from that all-day conference yesterday. All day on Zoom is more tiring than people realize, because your focus and concentration are honed to such a fine point in space and time. My eyes are really tired, and my brain kind of hurts a little. So, I’m fine with hibernating for today. I didn’t even logon to the Fellowship’s service this morning. Just didn’t have the heart.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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