How do I phrase thee

“This might seem like [a] pointless semantics argument and maybe it is, but [I] believe that the way that we phrase things has a powerful impact on the way we think about things, and that the way we think about things has a powerful impact on the way we conduct ourselves.” -OberDoIt

And I can’t help it. I can’t disconnect my beliefs from my conduct. I can’t detach my semantics from my thoughts. And maybe people know this about me and maybe that’s why they value my presence. Maybe because …

No, that’s not right.

Well, how do you stop attaching the way you think about things to someone else’s conduct? How do we stop presuming to know the shape and the size and the weight and the flavor of someone else’s cares? Caring?

My parents controlled where and when I went, but they did not structure my time or my activities. I was pretty much left to my own devices. They rarely claimed my time or my words or my thoughts. I was expected to do my part in the family. Set the table, clear the table, eat your share of the food, help me fold the laundry that you use, help me clean the yard that you play in, help me buy the food you will eat, help me plant the flowers you will smell. But otherwise, they did a good job of letting me be. We always said good night, but rarely good morning. My mom would let me sleep in, saving a plate of eggs for me from the terrors when I woke up after them. My dad would leave me to my summer routine on my days off–run, yogurt, stretch, pool, books, nap. My time was easily distinguished: ours or mine.

So my love is flowing and erratic, like a river. But boundaries– I have them. Rushing at times and trickling at others. In love– I wasn’t overly pressured to give any reaction which didn’t naturally come. Mom tried to train me, but I resisted. Mostly, it didn’t matter because the love came out in other ways. Ways I was comfortable with. I was rarely put upon to love in traditional ways, unless mom and I were alone, which was so rare I never had to develop a reaction. A coping mechanism. And my dad would never dare to make such demands, since he mostly felt like he was unworthy anyway. Quietly working to earn my love like most things he has accomplished since the divorce.

There is a video of my first birthday. The videographer changes throughout the hour, hour and a half of footage. I used to pull it out every birthday from my dad’s drawer of VHS recorded tapes. I would put it on and stretch out on the living room floor with the mountain smell in my hair and watch. I am there, around. Small and blonde and bald. I am stumbling about in that awkward way that newcomers to walking have. But mostly– what always delighted me in a strange way– I am alone. I stagger about, occasionally making eye contact or faces at the camera as we cross paths. My family is loud, boisterous, brown. My cousins wrestle, run barefoot, and fight to be in the center of the lens. My parents flirt and laugh and play a drunken game of pool with my aunts. My uncles hold their beer bottles in one hand and tease the videographer of the moment. There I am, wandering into the grass. There I am, standing behind the couch. In the sides of the frame, I am picked up and put down. I am not followed or bothered or maneuvered. Isn’t it apparent? My family respected me as an independent individual and allowed me my agency from the youngest of ages.

But sometimes you have to play the game? No, you don’t. 

Maybe in a way I feel entitled–that the people who want my love will have to work for it, will have to first prove themselves worthy. That’s what my parents did. Why should I love you? Because you gave me life? They weren’t even sure, at first, in those long nights of my early life, how much they really loved me. We had to figure it out. I had to prove myself worthy of them and they of me, you see. We reciprocated this love contest. We’ve had to make our love unique and recognizable in this world of freely-thrown-about-love. We love each other because we’ve made us work. And my love became a rationed quality good in limited quantity. I don’t want you to ever think for a second that my love is a guarantee. I don’t love you no matter what.

Which brings me back to my ultimate point–You deserve nothing.

I prove you wrong with my lack of love. 

Why is that?

But still, people try. They want to live in a place where they can assume my love, and I twitch and I pull. I feel these new claims stretch out with their claws from the dark and I pull, pull, pull. Flow further down the river. Evading the logs and the rocks and the tree limbs. I think.

“That’s my best friend.” People don’t belong to other people. Where do you get off claiming me without my permission, or without my input, or without considering for one second those parts of me you can’t see. Will never see. Don’t know exist because you don’t realize how faceted I am. How different I am from you. Yes, I can charm, but I can also blend. I can also change my colors. I can also flower and wing and fall over the mountain. Like that time you grabbed me without my knowledge or agreement. Don’t touch me. Like when you lay claim to the time that I have never offered you. Time which is slotted for other things. Like that time you make demands of me, when I need to consult with myself. I need to attune to myself. Atone. No one can be the best. No one can be better than anyone else. Maybe that’s what I’m trying to prove. You think I am the best? I will prove you wrong…You have labeled me as such? I will destroy your labels, your boxes, your very basis of rationale. Value is not inherent. We create the worth. 

I know people can’t help the way they love. I know that is what makes us people, but I wish I were more patient when it came to being comfortable with the way you want to love me. I wish I could stand the discomfort when I’m letting you love me in your way. I wish I could push down the rage in my chest and ignore the disrupt, the detour you’ve caused to my flow. I am aware, at least, of the dissonance.

I know it’s not right to ask you to love me exactly the right way I want to be loved, but why then, are you asking so of me? Why again do I feel like it’s a one-way street for me and me alone. I know that’s not true. I know you try to love me the way I am demanding. But then you come in and you want me to give give give, and so in bitter reaction I just take take take. I get that insolent look on my face and that stubborn hunch to my shoulders and I smile with my eyes, but not with my mouth, and I watch you dance your dance until you decide to give up and leave me be. And then later, I watch your guarded, astonished face as I slowly show out of my mask. And I see you so grateful yet confused yet unsure. Will she or won’t she? And then you are hesitant and wounded and wondering. My sister tells me accusingly, I’m moody. I’d like to think it’s not that simple. I’d like to think it’s not just my moods, but it’s your lack of observation, of feeling, of awareness, of openness, of semantics. Of conduct. How do you think about things?

Maybe it’s just that I don’t want you to feel safe around me.

“Are you jealous of the ocean’s generosity?
Why would you refuse to give
this joy to anyone?
Fish don’t hold the sacred liquid in cups!
They swim the huge fluid freedom.”


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