Yesterday, Dr. B. handed over a passage from Thomas Merton, in , I don’t know, a gazillion font? Yes, He was trying to make a point as I am often dense to the whispers of recovery. So I reprint it here in normative 12 point:
“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection we find in them.”
Okay, my initial, adamant response was that I, Kerry Neville Bakken, practice loving those around her without regard to faults that I might take (Bipolar/Eating Disorder) issue with. For instance, a close friend who looked like me six months ago—bigger, wider, in no way delicate. And the ED part of me says, “Discipline girl! Just rack up the miles on whatever machine you use, cut down on portion sizes and YOU, TOO can be like me.”
Like me. The giant lie. My ego wants to believe that I am someone anyone would want to be. And yet, I am no one anyone would really want to be--wracked with Bipolar Disorder, and Eating Disorder, and hyears upon years of self-injury. Be like me? Isn't that like wanting to be a velociraptor?
How awful that sounds. I’m already trying to reconfigure my friend into a different body, ignoring the fact that she is, really and truly, content. She doesn’t expect perfection from herself. She was okay, as is, and loved herself as is.
Then there was my daughter and her homework. I expected some replica of me: dedicated, assiduous, eager to be the best in class, the ribbon around the neck, the final kiss of: valedictorian of Elementary school. Instead, she rushes through assignments, her handwriting a version of chicken scratch in the farmyard pen.
And then yesterday, she brings home her spelling test, obviously embarrassed: “I got a B, Momma. I wrote a Z backwards and then forgot an L.”
Oh, did that resurrect my childhood insecurities. I remember my Dad reading through all my notebooks, pointing out misspelling and downright wrong answers. I was expected to immediately correct the transgression. Erase, rewrite. Erase, rewrite. Perfect, perfect, perfect.
But what my was my horrible, hard wired response? I tossed the B spelling test into the garbage.
“You can do better than this,” I said. “You just need to slow down and apply yourself. You got all the words right while we practiced.”
“But Momma,” she said, confused, “why didn’t you hang it on the refrigerator? I got a sticker along with the B?”
Fuck me, Fuck me. I am replicating scenes from my own childhood. I tossed that B into the garbage. I suck. I am an awful mother. A cruel mother. Can’t a B be good enough? Which is of course, what I learned growing up: mistakes weren’t tolerated; perfection expected.
So I tried to make it up to my daughter: unwrinkling the B, hanging it on the fridge. B IS GOOD ENOUGH. That what’s I’ve been learning From Dr. B. all these years. Good Enough is all I need to aim for. Perfection demands death. My latest foray? Searching online for the best ways to construct a noose. Then the where: some tree limb in some nearby state park. Or a garden hose duct-taped to the muffler, the car parked in an overlook of Tamarack lake.
But I’m brought back to Dr. B.’s missive: to love myself, in a beginning fashion, accepting faults, insecurities, to not twist myself into an image of perfection that the mirror always demands. I cannot love myself if am perfect. But that seems a corruption of Merton’s/Dr. B.’s message. I need to strive, in all relationships, to be myself, as in, fucked up in all the ways I am (so what if I terrify someone. Fuck them , right?) and to also be myself around those I love. No pretense. No pretending that I’m finer than I am. To admit to fantasies of the noose and garden hose. To admit to wanting to slice open my arms. To admit to wanting to go back to 109 pounds, ribs and backbone and hipbones, no excess. To be out of my mind.
Because this is what is the problem: I’m so tired of being “fine.” And at heart, I wonder if the six months in state hospital might, in fact, be the answer I need. But then again, I am here, sitting next to both kiddos, on the sly watching “Phineas and Ferb” and loving them beyond belief, for themselves, not as a reflection of my own selfish self. But for who they are. Misspellings and all.