I carry the book with me everywhere I go. It’s called An Abbreviated Life: A Memoir and is written by Ariel Leve. A friend-who-is-family saw it reviewed in the NY Times and said, “I think this might be familiar to you. Thought you’d like to see it.”
Within minutes of starting to read, my protect-my-self part is up and running. Funny enough she goes for purple sticky notes and a pencil, as opposed to ice cream. You never can tell with her.
Ten pages in, 10 stickies later, I have marked exact, verbatim quotes. Word-for-word. My life on a page. Except it is Ariel’s. At this point “they” tell you to expect to feel validated, seen, mirrored, known, not alone. That’s what all the people do when they finally go to the support group, read the post, see the TedTalk. Huh.
Brainlessly panicked. I don’t know if I should sit, stand, pace. Should I call someone? Take a klonapin? Meditate – ha! As if. Go for a walk? Keep reading? I am addled numb to a puddling pancake of neurons firing. Deaf to meaning. Wild widening eys. Breath shortening. Strangled fear.
I stand up. I sit down. I hold the book. Re open. Close. Sit. Stand. Walk. Sticky note. Pencil. Words. Mother. She. Me. How. Damaging. Didn’t feel it even if I knew it. Didn’t know it even if I felt it.
I am enervated. Why did this woman get to get through the mother-hell? I am 46, have been working on getting-through for each and every one of those years and still: no. Crashing mother-wave of hopelessly doomed, sternum-crushing-elephant- weight of not yet.
I am damaged. I see it in Ariel’s story. You would think after 46 years of seeking that I would know this. From back-of-palm forward is the place I have lived all this time: “of course, no problem, happy to help, everything is fine, not a hair out of place, all good.” From open life-lined-palm backwards, is the streaming infinity of hurt. Hundreds of sticky notes later, the gashes are un-ignorable.
This is a breakdown, though my therapist says it is a breakthrough. Seeing this big-fat-red-mother-handprint staining every inch of my stinging self. I was “FINE” (which the kids tell me means “’effed up’, insecure, neurotic and emotional) until Ariel showed me her hurty booboo, and I knew it as mine.
I need not wallow, but apparently I need not finish either. Sit-and-spin. Onwards with the centrifugal separation of me from her – of the blurring whirl that is being my mother’s daughter.
© Gabriella Strecker, 2016
photo courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUlDBu7uh38
 Brene Brown first introduced this concept to me, though my therapist did also say it this way. If you have not seen Brene’s Ted Talk on vulnerability, run, don’t walk to do so.