Day 13 | Clean as a Maid from Guile and Fleshy Sin | Wincing in Diet Bondage
I am trudging through Without A Map by Meredith Hall. (It is far beyond my favored narrative of Nam combat—gunships, futile carnage, crazy-in-the-face-of fear stuff). Without A Backbone (I mean, A Map) had been suggested because of its mother-daughter conflict—that’s the shit I write about.
Hall and I have experienced Mother cruelly overpowering Daughter as a teenager (winning tactic: rapid decisive operations and heavy penetration). It’s the theme in Hall’s book, the stem of cruelty in the story that blossoms into a life clouded by gaping loss that drives her to flee to faraway lands.
[Hall—Europe and the Middle East; me, Wyoming and a planet called Arizona]
Without A Map, however, is a horrendously infuriating read.
Fragility—the book is written in little girl narrative.
As a ten-year-old, her mother gestures her arms wide apart to express how much she loves her and Hall says “it’s not enough.”
Then, mind you, what is enough?
And Hall is “scared” all the time. She’s scared as a pregnant sixteen-year-old, she’s scared walking down her neighborhood streets in Cambridge, she’s scared manning a fishing boat in wild waters off Gloucester, she’s scared tying her shoes, she’s scared aimlessly traveling on a foreign continent by foot. She heralds victim.
I have chucked the book over my shoulder ten times.
I persevere in finishing it.
It occurs to me Hall has lived much of her life in PTSD. But as a sixty-year-old, can she write, reflecting on her life, still mired in PTSD? And if so, does the text read intelligently? Impart wisdom? Depict overcoming hardship in a way that resonates?
[Larry David imitating Bernie Sanders: nay.]
The-Mother-cruelly-overpowering-Daughter, the PTSD, happened to Hall in 1965. But haven’t women throughout history rose up and found the power within themselves to overcome and gain independence? Become fighters? Wrestle cowboys? Chew tobacco? Stick with sobriety? Couldn’t Hall tell her mother how she felt at her inflicted wrongdoing? In a calm, non-confrontational way? How the inflicted raw throbbing void of grief and loss had nearly ruined her, becoming a catalyst for whims and squandering and wrong relationships, a quest to find Love to replace the love taken away?
Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself. —Gloria Steinem
And what about the Mother’s conscience? Hall comes home to take care of her as her health deteriorates with MS. The disease takes it nasty toll for eighteen years. Daughter provides loving care the entire time and not once, does Mother bring up her abandoning Daughter when sixteen and pregnant. No apology. No remorse. No inquiry. The cruelty she inflicted doesn’t pinprick her conscience in the least.
Wait a minute.
Ah, hell, there’s the parallel.
Does my own mother’s cruelty inflicted on me pinprick her conscience? You know, when I woke up eleven days after a nasty car wreck as a nineteen-year-old, freshly moved out of the CCU to a surgical floor—my innards pulverized like hamburger and broken glass in my ass— and she sternly sat at my bedside with her eyes boring into my own like laser beams and said of my lover and best friend, “Tell Michael you’re never going to see him again. It’s over.”
I recall laying there incredulous, said nothing, couldn’t. Her power was stronger than mine.
And I will never broach the subject with her as long as a live—the psychological stronghold, Mother vs. Daughter.
Hey, but I didn’t cry victim and I wasn’t “scared.” I recovered as best someone could with her amputated innards re-plumbed, got out into the world with that unresolved grief living in my gut, and shook stuff up.
The shaking was messy, but I didn’t drown in self-pity.