Poetry from I.O. Kirkwood
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.
Women remember things. We make decisions based on how we feel. Don’t think these are a spur of the moment decisions, either. Each memory is a point on a microcosmic tally sheet. Much like Maat weighs a soul’s heart against a feather, so too does a woman weigh the good experiences against the bad in a relationship.
On a woman’s subconscious tally sheet, a man could take her on a Caribbean cruise and that would earn him one point. The woman would then go on to grade the man for his behavior during the cruise. If he is attentive and romantic, he earns points for each gesture. If he’s distant and dismissive, he loses points.
Conversely, a man could never take a woman on a Caribbean cruise (or buy her expensive jewelry or exotic flowers or fancy dinners) yet every gesture he makes shows such an abiding affection and respect and desire for the woman that a bouquet of handpicked flowers, a walk in the park, and a homemade dinner would earn him more points than the man who dropped cash for a cruise. It’s about the quality of the experience.
My sister-in-law expressed it nicely after she had gotten over a miserable head cold. She had volunteered to make 300 sugar cookie children all with piped sugar accents. Then she fell ill. She had baked the cookies but spread before her were 300 unfinished children-shaped treats and she was overwhelmed. Without being asked, my brother showed up “with a smile and his piping tube.” This was after a hard day of work on his part and helping with the children. She even posted a picture, and I could see the delight on my brother’s face as he saved the day for the woman he loves.
Grand gestures are nice, especially when it engages both participants in something authentic and enjoyable, but a woman remembers every gesture and it all adds up. Showing up with a smile to save the day, even though it’s just piped icing, means so much especially when it shows that the person cares about what is IMPORTANT to a woman.
Women and men want people around them and in their lives who add value to their experience of the world. Some of this is monetary, attached to prestige, and dependent on attraction, but in the end, they seek relationships that add value to the meaning of life. These relationships elevate, support, and nourish dreams and positive self-images.
Each present moment is part of a continuum and each experience is a metaphorical point. Experiences within experiences are also points. Your quality of life is determined by the balance between the positive and negative. Where do you want your balance to be?