Thursday, November 8, 2012

Past and present

This memory might have been my first church experience:

we were in a gray stone building. The stone was inside. It was the walls, the floor. The pews were dark wood and the smells and sounds knit a blanket of someone else's comfort. The program hadn't begun yet and I walked backward down the nave and out to the foyer. I couldn't get the water fountain to work at an angle where I could reach to drink from it and I knew if I didn't hurry I risked making an inappropriate re-entrance as the program did begin.

And then the tiny nun with the starched wimple and steely eyes sucked in her breath and grabbed my hand. I had been splashing in the baptismal font.

I have so many Catholic friends. I'm sorry, you all. I was just thirsty.

It's one of those memories that just sticks. (The shaming ones do, don't they?)

E is approaching age seven and so is reaching that stage where everything is embarrassing. I've begun telling her stories of all the (many, many, many) times I've felt embarrassed. When I was her age and self-conscious and klutzy and daydreamerly (a terrible combination for avoiding embarrassment) I do remember that with every fumble, physical, verbal or otherwise, I was both convinced that every single person in the vicinity had noticed and that these things didn't happen to other people. So I'm trying to inoculate E against that particular self-loathing of thinking you're the only one with any particular problem. I don't know if it will help her or not, but we all stumble. We all do embarrassing things out of naivete or moments of clumsiness or simply inadvertently. She's not unique in her suffering.

What's interesting about recounting these awful moments is that they go weightless as I speak them. Ancient shames find absolution. Moments I didn't know I still cared about but carry like little stones in my heart turn to dandelion puffs and float away.

This is a thing I think about a lot. We talk loudly about our accomplishments and not at all about our vulnerabilities. Wouldn't we all save each other if we talked about our vulnerabilities instead?

I have a friend who is struggling right now. I can't help her but the thoughts in her head are strangling her because she can't get them all out; she's afraid of looking at them. We all carry stones.

While E is still a kid, I want to teach her to accept that bad moments and let them go again, never give them a chance to solidify in her psyche. Do you think that's possible? Can a girl today grow up without self-poisoning?
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