Sunday, March 27, 2016

The riddle answered

I think I have found the answer to the teapot riddle. It's too straightforward to leave as a mere comment, but like so many other riddles, I had to have some patience to let it reveal itself.

Dad came up this past week to help me with some things and spend some time together. He likes it here, the bed in my guest room is a very good sleeping bed and I don't really have too many chores for him to do. He's in his eighties now and I think he may have done his last chore for me, he's gotten a little weaker and a little less sure footed, so it might be best to just think of this as a little holiday from home from now on. He never aged a day until he was over 75, now he needs a bit of watching over. He thought I was joking that I would call him on the phone and make sure he was drinking his water. I wasn't.

Somewhere in our conversations and many catchings up, Dad happened to mention that he and I went out to tea together one time, just the two of us. Dad had an accompanied tour overseas once (he was an officer in the U.S. Navy), and we (Mom and us kids) got sent home early. Dad stayed on there another six months, then when he got a transfer approved to Vietnam, he stopped by where we had moved to in the States on his way to Vietnam. While he was with us that week, he and I went to some little restaurant and had tea, probably according to whatever my little child's ideal of having tea would be. He thought it was very sweet and I was quite adorable. I was six, about to start the first grade, and I don't remember the occasion at all.

He was deployed to Vietnam MACV for 18 uninterrupted months and I watched the war on the 6 o'clock news, Huntley and Brinkley, every night. I thought sure we were winning with all the people being killed in each battle, and I strained to see some glimpse of him in every newsreel of Saigon city. He was there during the Tet Offensive and I'm sure I was nearly exhausted with the waiting and worry by the time he came home.

The first seven years of my life, I was waiting for Dad to come home from the sea for at least four of them, maybe much more. Looking on the big map in the kitchen and wondering where Daddy's ship could be was a daily fixture in my life.


I was two and a half in this photo sent to Daddy away on a cruise, showing that I loved him and was being a good girl waiting for him to come home.

Of course, when he came finally came home to never go on a cruise again, we were all older, it wasn't the happy home I thought it was going to be, and the only way to spend time with him was to be his little helper around the house or go to work with him. And so began almost two decades of waiting for when things were better and we would all be happy then.

Of course, that time never comes and it never came, but I've still been waiting for it. Bracing, prepping like a survivor cultist, unspoken prayers no different than wishing on a star, unconsciously thinking that I have to keep some sort of time gate open just in case that storm front moves in and things that went wrong can be make right in the end. It's magical thinking, it's believing that fairy tales do come true, it's the endless mind maze of great science fiction, and it's the thoughts of an isolated child who gets her ideas about how life could be from classic movies.

Or, as Pia Mellody has pointed out, it's delusional thinking, and it was deliberately trained into me when I had no power to think it out on my own. It has lain quietly and mercilessly within me all this time, only whispering a word or giving up a rush of nostalgia at regular intervals to keep me bound within it.

I am truly, truly shocked at how much of this sort of thinking I've been engaged in all my life. It's never out in the open, but my thinking processes have never been out in the open before, either. This kind of thinking is the dreaming I do when I'm helpless and distressed on every front, I just keep it tucked away as a comforting talisman, a kind of dream that lulls me to sleep at night after a hard day of grinding reality. It isn't particularly about my father, it's about any thing or any place in life I can't get to right now. I just plan and dream and make very small preparations, like cups of tea in a Victorian drama, and wait for something to change because I can't see any way to change the situation myself.

 (I've been trained to wait for some other day, because I've had my own agency usurped by the needs of my parents. I can't "go and do" because my job was to not cause trouble at home EVERY DAY and be always available to take care of my parents' emotional needs. I was an emotional counselor and comforter to both of them, neither one of them had a Clue that was grossly inappropriate or that mutual support was between husband and wife only, not parent and child. While Dad was in Vietnam, Mother had me come home from school for lunch every day, sleep in the bed with her at night so she wouldn't be alone, and never thought to see I went to parties or friends houses to play because she was busy finishing her college degree. Can you see how making friends in school got short circuited that way? I could go on and on... )

Strangely enough, it's about having small vision, although it masquerades as grand dreams. While "someday something big will happen" is happening, nothing at all is happening - year after year - and my life just kept slipping on by. I needed much better help than I got, much better counseling that I ever had access to, but life just isn't fair like that, so I'm deliberately being thankful that I'm getting a clearer head now. It's a bit of a mixed blessing still, however, because I'm at the stage in life now that I half wonder if I wouldn't be better to just remain half asleep. Youth is absolutely gone and I must actually do something effective about my life now or become profoundly grieved or bitter. It's extremely dangerous territory, really, and I have no patience with platitudes about it.

Well, all that said I'm still working out the new way of thinking.

* It means I feel easier about getting rid of old, not really valuable at all, just sentimental family items. For the most part, they are actually memory tokens for one of my parents or grandparents, not a memory of mine. Both of my parents have somehow felt that sharing their memories of family or experiences have been a means of sharing the actual family or experience - and so they defaulted on making sure we kids had friends and experiences of our own.  I've settled for that in all my relationships, I've permitted friends and lovers to treat me the same secondhand way, and it's completely wrong and dismissive.
(Examples:
Mother went to San Francisco for two weeks for her job. She generously brought back a silver charm of the city as a memento and the first charm on a new bracelet I wanted to start collecting. She really thought her experience was a valid memory for me, after all, wasn't I just an extension of her existence?
"Friends" in high school used to go to parties or camp out on the weekend and habitually did not invite me to anything, yet they felt no shame about it and would still hang out around me every day in school. I can't count the number of times they would tell me about how good the S'more's were around the campfire, yet I've never had a S'more 'til yet. "Friends" in high school are quite the story in themselves, but we'll leave that for some other day.)

*It means I feel better about dumping projects and plans of my own that went nowhere and just seem to have accumulated in my soul because at some point or for some reason it seemed good at the time. Being habituated to holding on to someone else's thoughts for them has kept me in the habit of hanging on to my own plans or projects for much too long. It's part and parcel of not being in the present, but living in the delusion of the past or the delusion of a daydream. The present is the only reality that I have access to, there is plenty to do here, and I'm not precluding a different future by just being right here right now.
 (There is some quality of betraying the past or future that I've attached to being fully present in the right now. I think it's a tag habit leftover from grieving the loss of my sister, as if moving on with my life without her is a betrayal of my love for her. It's pure emotion, not reason, but it's a lie that has to go.)


 *It means I've got to be deliberate and fierce EVERY DAY about not letting memories and day dreams suck up any more of my time. It's such an easy thing to do, but I think I'd be better off watching a new movie or listening to a book on tape while I do some absent minded activity (clean house, paint a room, walkies) rather than let my mind float away in its old habit of entranced distraction. How well I'll do with it, I couldn't begin to guess, but this is an issue of life and death. I have a loooong track record of letting time go by unnoticed, daydreaming inside my head was my only defense against profound boredom and mental/emotional invasion by others as a child, but all those people are gone and I'm safe now. I can "go and do" whatever I want (for the most part), but only if I am actually spending much more of my time outside than inside.

I said earlier that God is ready to write the next chapter in my story, and I really feel like this is what He is saying to me right now. Nothing about it is has to be what I've ever expected or planned for, although I'm also not saying it will be grand or exciting or "important" to the world's way of thinking, it's just going to be not the same chapters I've had always had again and again.

The most difficult thing about novels or long stories is the ending. How will the author bring things together and make everything that came before integrated into a whole that came from somewhere and arrived at its destination? I gave up fiction novels many years ago because I kept plowing thru reasonably good stories that the author couldn't finish. The elements were there, the writing was good, the pacing was effective, yet when it was time to bring the thing to an end and get it published, the author had lost his way and run out of steam. Somehow the last few chapters were little more than the mush of an editor pushing for The End to finally arrive.

I don't want mine to be a grand story, I just want it to be a coherent, graceful story. I've had all the mush I can stand, certainly more mush than a child deserves. I want my wounded inner child to have grown up and released me from all her debts at last.

And with that last sentence, what's this song I hear echoing in my ear?


"Somebody’s gotta pay for this.
Nobody gets away unless somebody dies.
And it’s confirmed that there’s been pain
enough to satisfy the rage
from the losses she sustained by age thirteen.
Only then can the rest go free."






Found this blog looking for that image. She gets it just right.

May you all find your own resurrection in Jesus, the Messiah.

Somebody’s gotta pay for this. Nobody gets away unless somebody dies. And it’s confirmed that there’s been pain enough to satisfy the rage from the losses she sustained by age thirteen. Only then can the rest go free. - See more at: http://stevebell.com/2007/06/somebodys-gotta-pay/#sthash.M39XqfPP.dpuf

Somebody’s gotta pay for this. Nobody gets away unless somebody dies. And it’s confirmed that there’s been pain enough to satisfy the rage from the losses she sustained by age thirteen. Only then can the rest go free. - See more at: http://stevebell.com/2007/06/somebodys-gotta-pay/#sthash.M39XqfPP.dpuf

1 comment:

Sweetbriar said...

And I've not bought another teapot or tea cup since. The compelling edge has been taken off. I'll wait to see if it's truly gone, but I'm not compulsively searching for tea pots anymore, not online or at estate sales. That doesn't mean I wouldn't enjoy tea, high or low, with friends. Conversation, light sandwiches and a biscuit, that would be lovely, wouldn't it?