The guilt-trip tango
I omit many details from my blog, carefully choosing words and phrases that will draw the most attention to what’s there and the least attention to what’s missing.
As I ran this morning, I thought about all the details I leave out here. I thought about the autobiographical book–memoir, even–I’m currently 12,500 words into writing, and how discomfiting it is to force myself to not only shoo away but embrace the details. I’ve become so comfortable navigating around them, it feels downright aggressive to be wrangling them up and commanding them.
Recently I imagined that “f*cks” are adorable, misunderstood critters we too willingly give away in anger and frustration (“In which I swear, quite a lot!“). I took the same approach to “details” this morning, imagining them as individuals with their own objectives and wants.
ME: You. Detail.
DETAIL#34: Wha? Me? No, you mean that other guy. The purple one over there?
ME: No, I mean you. I need you to come with me.
DETAIL #34: No. No, please, no. I just got married. You can’t take me from my wife!
ME: Oh, fine. Bring her along. No tricks, you hear?
DETAIL #34 [running away at a sprint]: You can’t catch meeeeeeeeeeee!
ME [using mind rays to pull Detail #34 back]: We can do this the nice way, where you come all willing-like, or we can do this the hard way.
DETAIL #34: Not the hard way. Please! I’ll play nice.
ME: Good Detail. Attaboy.
As my brain sped along much faster than my feet can run, I thought about some of the hardest details to write: those involving my mom’s less loving moments. So many people were so cruel to her, I fear that when I do address those moments, others will find themselves blinded to her many beautiful traits, which thrived–until the worst of her mental illness descended–despite perpetual hardships.
Then again, I’m recently discovering that my decisions made from fear are my least favorite decisions of all. I want my actions to reflect choices sprung from hope, and faith, not from fear that a handful of details will lock reader attention onto small, painful asides and erroneously exaggerate their importance so that the good details fade, leaving the hard ones all that readers remember about those beloved to me.
After everything you have supported me through, I should know better about y’all by now.
Running onward, I thought about one particular thing my mom used to do that drove me batty. Understand that it’s a small thing to share, but it’s a start.
If I went a week without calling my mom, our first catch-up call would begin, “Oh, Deborah? Is that you? I can hardly tell, it’s been so long since we’ve talked. You haven’t been by so long, I’m gonna forget your face sooner or later.”
I’d reply, “You keep this up, you’re really gonna forget my voice, too! Why can’t we have a little more conversation and a little less guilt trip? You know I’d call more often!”
Indeed, I sometimes went through multiple-week periods where I didn’t call my mom because the thought of doing another guilt-trip tango made me want to scream.
When the mood was right and both of us were feeling mellow, I’d tell Mom, “You know what’s going to get me here more often? Trusting that I love you and I will call and come by as often as I can. The rest is just, like, a roadblock to our sitting down and talking like this.”
As we spoke, I’d picture the woman I thought of as my second mom. If I went a couple of weeks without calling her, she’d say excitedly, “Oh! Deborah! How wonderful to hear from you!” Often, thrown off balance by her cheerful, guilt trip free greeting, I’d lose my conversation bearing and apologize for letting so much time slip away between calls.
“No, no, no. We’re all busy. I savor the chances I do get.”
As a parent myself now, it is one of my goals to ensure that my son knows a lot about his brilliant, outspoken, creative grandma Christine. It is still another of my goals to ensure he never, ever avoids picking up the phone to call me just to avoid the guilt-trip tango.
I love my mom. I am grateful for choices she made from fear, most notably holding on to life through abuse, persistent depression, and poverty so that her children would never experience custody-related hardships. I am even more grateful for the choices she made from love, because those choices remain the examples that inspire me today. They are the source of the joyous sense of eternal love I feel when I think of my mom today.
ME [sobbing]: Will I always hurt, Mom? Will it always be hard?
MOM [stroking my hair]: No, sweetie. It won’t always be hard. It’ll be hard for a long time, sometimes, but it won’t always be hard. You’ll have lots of joy, like I have in you kids. You’ll have that, too. And you’ll always have me. Always.
This was among posts accidentally deleted from this blog.