14 October 2010

Things That Are True: The Body Knows

There seems to be a theme to my October so far - it's like the gods I don't believe in* summoned up all the flotsam and jetsam of my past, washed it up on the beach of my consciousness and said, "Listen, sister. Deal."

Beach flotsam I just happened to catch on camera last weekend, English Bay

Yesterday, after three days of agonizing writing, reviewing, rewriting, and crying, I sent an email that almost killed me to write. I don't know how it will be received. I don't know how or if it will change some pretty important relationships in my life. But I'm just so done with some of the stuff the email's about, I had to send it. I had to reclaim my belief in myself. So now I sit, angst-ridden, simultaneously stalking and avoiding my inbox, wondering what the fallout will be; what kind of nuclear winter we'll have to suffer through before we can move on.

So that's fun.

Also yesterday, while sitting enjoying a perfectly lovely hot chocolate in one of my favourite haunts, I saw him. He was just walking by, he didn't see me, there were a few metres and half an inch of glass in between us, but still, my stomach instantly tied in knots, and I immediately felt like throwing up. After fourteen years, just seeing him at a distance can still make me physically ill. It affected me so much I had to interrupt my conversation with my coffee pal just to process it.

He was my first serious relationship, the first person I lived with, and the first (and only, I might add) person to hit me in the name of love.

It was textbook: he dazzled me, he made me feel like the best thing ever, and then he gradually, so gradually I didn't notice it was happening, undermined my confidence, estranged my friends, controlled everything I did, and hit me, telling me it was my fault. I think about it now, and can't believe it. How did I, the me that I am today, allow that to happen? (That's probably an entire post or five all on its own.)

Anyway, that relationship ended 14 years ago. I've seen almost nothing of him since, just chance encounters. Our social circles don't really intersect, our professional lives don't inhabit the same space. In the years since that horrible relationship I have very purposefully revisited spots we used to go to together, and replaced the bad memories with good ones. And I have never allowed myself to sink so far into a relationship again that physical abuse was somehow okay.

But it's the week for insights, and things I can't unknow, it seems. After I got home yesterday, one hit me so hard I had to stop moving, stop even breathing for a second.

The Imp is at a stage where he hits when he's frustrated. Since he's two, and testing every boundary, pushing every button, and still learning to communicate, he gets frustrated a lot. So he hits a lot. More precisely, he hits me a lot. He doesn't hit at daycare, he doesn't hit HWSNBN. He hits me. A lot.

The physical pain from these little two-year-old attacks of fists and feet is minimal, and transitory. I'm the grown-up, and I act accordingly. The Imp spends some time in the naughty corner, as he and I both get control, and as I tell him "calm down our bodies". There are times when it is really difficult for me to reign in my anger at being hit. There are times when my anger is all out of proportion to the assault. I've never lost control, the intellect has always prevailed in these situations. A couple of quiet minutes, a calm discussion of why we don't hit, a warm and loving hug, and on with our day.

But I realized yesterday, all in a heartbeat, that it's not the two-year-old hits I'm reacting to. It's the fourteen-year-old attacks that send me into a towering rage, that make me struggle to keep my voice calm, to explain why We. Don't. Hit. That make me need to take a quiet moment behind a closed door before I can give The Imp a hug and go back to reading stories, and playing games, and enjoying all the mind-numbingly beautiful moments of parenting, that happen all the time, every day, mostly when we're not looking.

The anger towards The Imp is an involuntary physical reaction, just like the stomach tightening and nausea yesterday when I saw my old flame. The body still reacts, even when the mind knows better.

I'm hoping that knowing this, processing it, figuring it out, will help me be a better parent. Will allow me to let go of this anger I didn't even realize I've been carrying around all this time, after all these years.

This morning, The Imp, as if looking straight into my brain at breakfast, said, "Hitting makes people sad." Yes, honey, hitting makes people sad. And not just the people being hit.

Then he wrapped his arms around himself, beamed at me, and said, "Hugging makes people happy!"

I must be doing something right.

*I don't believe in God. But if I did, it would have to be Loki. Because, well - just look at the world out there. It's the only explanation that fits. (With a hat tip to my Uncle David, who first mentioned that to me years ago, and it's stuck.) Either Loki, or some well-meaning but harried old chap in the sky. When I worked in the film and television industry, we used to joke: Good, Fast, or Cheap - pick any two. The God I most often hear described, despite his reputed omniscience, seems to be a variation of that: All-Loving, All-Knowing, All-Powerful - pick any two. That's my personal opinion, and I stand by it, but it doesn't prevent me from having, and more importantly, hugely respecting my friends and family who are devout in their faith.


  1. You ARE CLEARLY doing something right. CLEARLY. The sheer courage required to exit an abusive relationship and THEN ruthlessly carve it's influence from your life (visiting those places you used to go? Amazing and brave) makes me SO PROUD to know you. We can't control what life hands us but we can control how we react, and you are choosing to react in way to heal yourself and help your family. Keep doing what you are doing and KEEP TALKING ABOUT IT. Bring those demons out into the light and show them for the sad little clowns they are. xoxo Ally

  2. Hug and kiss. (Amanda)

  3. Kids have a way of making us deal with everything that we never really wanted to deal with. The upside is that it makes us much better people. The downside is, who really wants to deal with that stuff? Not me.