The Release of Death

The Release of Death

My mother and I before she said, “I’m sorry.”

I can only speak of my own experience now that someone with enormous influence over my life has died. I could write about the horrors of those last two weeks or how I cried when I made one of the most harrowing decisions of my life.

Instead, I’m going to write about the last two years since the death.

I had a love-hate relationship with my mother. It was a two-way cycle of yelling for most of my life based on misunderstandings that can only arise from two incompatible perspectives violently clashing. She believed that everyone, including myself, lied to get attention. I believed that honesty was the best policy, sometimes to my detriment.

My mother had Bipolar II with a co-morbidity of closet narcissism. The world revolved around her and the vagaries of her manic-depression. She refused to get help and she refused to acknowledge my illness as anything other than histrionics and attention-seeking.

I can’t hold her illness against her now. Not since my diagnosis with Bipolar II, which was only valid in psychiatric circles with the release of the DSM-V in 2013. The medical community had betrayed her with their shoddy treatment of her breast cancer. The psychiatric community could only do the same.

She was right. Many times, she was right about people and situations. How she conveyed these insights was the problem, because she cast her sense of self-importance and “superior” intellect into the telling.

I don’t care for that kind of conveying. It smells of deceit. But how could my mother deceive me? I was her first-born and only daughter. I was her miracle when she gave birth to me.

These insights are the aftermath of death. You don’t only grieve the loss. You grieve for the relationship and the moments. All of them.

You get angry that you were left behind. You lament over unresolved grievances. You regret the future that will never be.

It’s all about you now.

You might hate the person who died, and if the ties were half a strand of DNA and/or all the interactions implied in that sort of relationship, you are torn up inside. Love and/or hate. Mixed emotions that you must resolve.

But here’s the other side of the coin. Whatever awful relationship you had with this person who influenced your life, the death sets you free.

Whatever aspect of your life this person dominated is now open for you to explore. Sometimes, it’s your entire life, but usually it’s a shedding of judgments that infected you through criticisms. It’s the letting go of someone else’s perspective. If you want to, you can see clearly.

The weight that lifted from my shoulders after my mother died was enormous. Here I was thinking I was my own person and I’ve discovered that I wasn’t. My mother’s influence touched the most important aspects of my life and colored them with the idea that I always made poor decisions, that I was nothing compared to her. That’s a weight I was willing to lose.

I’m relieved she died.

There. I said it. As much as I loved my mother, I hated her more. Her decisions deprived me of a potentially healthier life.

Because that’s what abuse does. It gives you a greater potential for illness. It gives the abuser a greater potential for illness. Emotional, mental, and physical violence take its toll on both parties involved in the transaction.

I can’t change what happened, but I wonder if I would have been a more productive contributor to society without her influence. I wonder if I would have developed my predisposition for Bipolar. There was a time when I wasn’t ill. I was just frightened and conflicted. Hypervigilant.

Sometimes I miss you, Mom. We had some good times, but only after I “divorced” you. You couldn’t undo my childhood, but at the end, it meant so much that you wished you could. That you learned how to say, “I’m sorry.”

But most importantly, you said, “I believe you.”

©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

The Art of Courtesy

The art of courtesy

Intentional discourtesy pulls your decent-human-being card. I worry for your children and hope you haven’t reproduced yet.

I am no Miss Manners. I curse like a sailor. I have foot-in-mouth syndrome to such a degree that LSCWs despair of my ever being cured. But there is one thing my father taught me, and it is the bedrock of all good things in society. He told me this as a child and I have never forgotten it.

Civilized behavior is leaving a room as nice as or nicer than when you first entered.

Behaviors that are not civilized include:

Dropping trash on the ground. Treat trash like dog poop and put it in a receptacle. Not the sidewalk, not the expressway. Just don’t.

Leaving a trail of discarded clothing and other belongings. Don’t let people know you’ve been in a room, or several. This is the symptom of a disorganized mind. Keep that shit in your bedroom.

Fucking someone else’s significant other. Ah, the possibility of true love to escape the misery of your relationship with your SO. If you can’t fix the issues, leave. Then you can fuck whoever you want. I learned this the hard way.

Coercing someone. I’m not talking about grabbing your toddler as they bumble toward a busy street. Coercion is when you do something that isn’t in the best interests of the coercee. This is a matter of listening to the other person. That’s one of the most civilized things you can do.

Taking up two parking spots. If your Maserati needs two spaces at the grocery store, keep it in the fucking garage. If you can afford a Maserati, you shouldn’t be doing your own shopping anyway, entitled asshole.

Cutting in front of the little old lady in the checkout line. This is one of the most disrespectful things you can do, in my opinion. Elders usually mellow out to an extent that they can become invisible. Don’t treat others like they’re invisible.

Not taking care of your animals. If you own a pet, you are responsible for said pet. If you own anything, take care of it. That’s what ownership is about. It’s not having. It’s a responsibility. If you can’t take care of it, don’t own it. Simple.

Not taking care of your kids. This is egregious. Your children are parts of you and if they aren’t the center of your care and concern, it’s a reflection on how you feel about yourself. Neglecting children is right up there with beating them. And your past is not an excuse. It’s an obstacle to vanquish. I speak from experience.

Here are the basics of courtesy:

At work, at home, and in social settings, acknowledge other human beings. I have never, ever been so insulted in my life as when the grocery check-out clerk failed to acknowledge me. I told him a few things and finished it up with “You are not too good for this job.” I believe I earned one of my little-old-lady badges with that one.

When someone renders a service, fucking thank them. Tell them you appreciate them. My favorite line is, “I appreciate this so much. You’ve been so helpful.” And I mean it. You can’t believe how this changes a surly clerk or child into a smiling human being.

Get your nose out of your fucking phone! Granted, this is a pet peeve of mine, but it is so rude. Put the damn thing down and look at the other person across the table from you. You can have the same interaction with this person, only face-to-face. Your addiction to your phone is a serious issue that may need medical attention.

I’m not blaming anyone because that would be the dirty pot calling the dirty kettle unwashed. As I grow older, I’ve discovered just how rude humans can be to each other. I remember my twenties and thirties and I cringe. I’ve become mindful of how I treat others and how I treat myself.

Courtesy is a mindfulness, an awareness, that will have a positive effect on the world around you. As the wise ones over the millennia have said, “Your reality begins from within.” That means every action you take reflects your inner world. Be kind to yourself.

©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.

CHRONICLES OF A PRIVILEGED WHITE GIRL

I think this image is one of the most potent for me from the Ferguson protests. I would love to meet this woman. #blacklivesmatter

With all of the debate about race and white supremacy zinging about the Internet, I thought I would put my two cents into the debate. I am in no way an expert on race relations and I don’t claim to have any great understanding of what a person of color experiences on a day to day basis.

But I got a taste-a very sour, bitter taste.

I was in San Antonio, at the WalMart near the airport close to the upper loop of I-410. I wandered the aisles and something began to strike me as very odd. When you almost bump into someone or practically run them over with your cart, you do the polite thing and say, “Excuse me.” I mean, this is the expected reaction when you almost cause bodily harm to another human being. Right?

Not here. I was saying “Excuse me” as these people blatantly disregarded my personal space. White folk and Latino folk seemed intent on running me over. Here I was, used to the privilege of being seen and acknowledged, and in the two visits to this particular store in a space of a week, I had been ignored as if my very existence was an insult.

I didn’t just assume this. I actually tried to speak to the culprits. “Excuse you!” actually came out of my mouth. “Hey, I’m right here. Hello?”

I was suddenly afraid. I was incredibly angry. Eyes looked past me. Faces were deliberately blank. I think I was more shocked by the Latinos’ reactions than the Caucasians’. But it boiled down to one conclusion: to them, I was not human.

Why do I think I experienced this? San Antonio is a unique place. Those of color who hail from this city will understand what I have to say next.

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Here is my picture. I’m Black Irish, which means I’ve got dark blood running through my veins. It’s Latin: predominantly Italian and Spanish. I’m also very fair skinned from my Irish heritage.

I was too dark for the Caucasians. I was “other.” I was one of the interlopers who only existed to clean white people’s houses and mow their lawns.

The Latinos KNEW I wasn’t one of them. I walked with too much confidence. My skin was too pale. I expected to be acknowledged. I smelled like stinky, white privilege.

My illusions about race were shattered. All this time I’d been thinking that “tales” of white privilege and supremacy were fantasies of overactive, welfare-recipient minds while right under my nose, people of color are experiencing what happened to me, twice in my life in the span of a week, on a DAILY basis. Hourly perhaps or even every minute. I couldn’t hide anymore.

This experience has reshaped my view of race relations in America. Again, I’m no expert and I certainly make no claim to knowing “black pain.” I don’t, but the dislike I have for San Antonio and its people runs deep because of this. If I never see that city again, it will be too soon.

The treatment I received made me suspicious of everyone there. If someone did acknowledge me, I mistrusted their motives. I was afraid to go out alone. I’ve never felt that deep an animosity for anything before.

Considering my reaction to one city for two quantifiable offenses, is it any wonder that some of the black population, or any population with “darkness” in their blood, have expressed such deep, abiding hatred for the white folk? It must run so much deeper than we suspect, through seven generations and more, and it is now part of the fabric of our society. We’ve poisoned ourselves.

So my question to people of color who live in America, (because I’m including everyone here, not just Africa Americans) how do you keep getting up and going out into the world every morning (or evening depending on your work schedule)? How is it that you can smile at this privileged little white woman on the metro or allow her to go first because Mamma taught you manners (in the hopes that you would survive long enough to make her a Grandma)?

You’ve got to be some of the bravest, most kick-ass people on the planet to do something like that every day. You have my utmost respect. In your honor, I will do everything in my power to apply the antidotes of respect, understanding, and good will to EVERYONE I meet. And I hope we meet.

Happy New Year! \m/

2014 © iokirkwood.com “Chronicles of a Privileged White Girl.” All rights reserved.

savedpicture-33.jpgIn between bouts of writing for metaldescent.com, blogging, and banging her head, I.O. Kirkwood is the author of The Needless series, “Subatomic Revolt” in Mike Lynch’s No Revolution Is Too Big series and the short story “The White Carpet,” a finalist in the Scribes Valley Publishing Fiction Contest in 2013.