I love beauty, so that’s mostly what I try to contribute to the world. Especially with my photos. Yesterday I posted a pic on Facebook of some fruits and veggies I’d bought at Rainbow. I’m gluten-free for my health and vegan for my health, the animals, and planet. Healthy is mostly how I eat.
I also bought these. This is not the pic I posted. I posted the fruits and veggies. Where does full truth reside? Probably not so much on FB and Instagram.
I always think people don’t want to hear the hard parts, like where and how I’m fucking up, though I appreciate a lot hearing how hard life actually is for others. I respect them for their honesty. I resonate and feel less alone. This last two weeks has been particularly hard for a lot of us. We’ve all been gop-kavanaugh-and–trump-fucked, and are still being gaslighted up the wazoo!!
In addition, for me, I’ve been sick, home alone, feeling isolated, and lonely AF. I have a DEEP need to be in relationship and in community, and I can’t seem to find either one. I also have a deep need to contribute to the common good. I have loads of talent, smarts, and abilities, and yet, I can’t figure out WHAT TF to do to contribute. I know I don’t contribute half of what I have in me to. People who know me know I don’t give up easy. I’m resilient AF. I’m persistent AF as well. Maybe this is the year I’ll figure stuff out.
This morning I listened to this podcast of Marie Forleo in conversation with Brene Brown. I listened to Brene read the last 3 lines of her newest book, “dare to lead: brave work, tough conversations, whole hearts”.
Choose courage over comfort.
Choose whole hearts over armor.
And choose the great adventure of being brave and afraid at the exact same time.
I am already signed up, most of the time. Except intermittently, when I am simply exhausted. Sometimes I think Marie and Brene, who don’t even know me, have more faith in my ability to step up to the plate than I have. But their words DO remind me, I have all this in me. You do too. We all do.
Seeing how Dr. Ford was treated, the faux-listening, the faux-sympathy, the faux-FBI-investigation, the confirmation, Trump’s mocking of her, their glee, their gaslighting. Hearing so many women speak up. So many stories of the Patriarchy, of assault. No wonder we’re weary. I can’t even imagine how tired Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford must feel right now. I joined thousands (hopefully millions) in writing her a personal thank you note. I only hope it helped a tiny bit.
Brene Brown, an incredibly strong person, spoke in this podcast about how much bandwidth (her word) it took for her to receive so much rebuke (mostly from women), when she posted her support of Dr. Ford. I could tell from her voice it exhausted her. Still, she stepped right back up to the plate and talked to Marie about it, as Marie told her the blowback she’s gotten for having come out in support of Dr. Ford. I’m telling you these Trump cult followers are mean-spirited and active. They’re wonked out on too much patriarchal-Fox kool-aid. It’s exhausting. Still, we need to step up to the plate.
I have to go back in time here.
My Mom used to call my Dad The Big Hand…
She’d say, The Big Hand will be home soon; then you’re gonna get it.
(This is when she hadn’t been up to delivering the many more, wildly-swung, but poorly aimed blows, which were less effective in creating pain, herself). Dad walked in all cool, tired, and dark-mooded after work, esp when he’d heard of a misbehavior. He wouldn’t say a word, just signal me to head to my bedroom where he’d deliver one mega-wallop bare-handed to my butt. My tears were scorned with She’s a real Sarah Bernhardt. Complaints were not allowed. Dad was a handball champion, so his hands were kind of weaponized. The wallop would take my breath away and stung for awhile after, but most of the pain was his cold-hearted attitude. Not an iota of curiosity whether the crime merited the punishment. (It never did.) Not an iota of compassion. He was a hurting machine.
I already knew his hands. From the time I was little, really little, when I sat on his lap, he would grab my butt and say, Whose property is this? I don’t know exactly when I learned the right answer It’s yours, Daddy, but we would enact this exact scenario countless, hundreds of times over many years. Eventually he stopped of his own accord. Or maybe I just stopped sitting on his lap.
Fast forward, I was in my mid-thirties, visiting my parents in Phoenix. Dad and I had a fight. Not exactly a fight. One evening he said some cruel things to me. I froze, said nothing. All night I had a stomachache. Dad was always the first one up, having his breakfast alone in the kitchen. That morning — it was 6am — I got up the courage to tell him he’d hurt my feelings. It sent him into a rage. He didn’t touch me, but if facial expressions could kill, I would for sure have been dead. The glare of his hatred blazed brighter than the sun. I had to look away. He added some expletives — he did not give one single goddamn fuck what I thought. I apologized and scurried back to my bedroom. After a couple of days I was still unable to face him or speak to him. My mother questioned me.
Why are you doing this to your Dad?
I had told her what had happened. How could she not understand? I’m not, I said.
That day or the next I was standing in the kitchen. My mother was at the sink washing dishes. Were we talking? I don’t remember. I know exactly where I was standing — two feet behind her and a foot to her right. I remember clearly my father entering the kitchen, standing next to me, taking hold of my butt, as he’d done when I was little. I froze.
Whose property is this? he asked.
My mind raced. I was thirty-fucking-five! I thought this must be his attempt at apology.
I wanted to have it over with, to say, It’s yours, Daddy, but more I wanted to say,
Fuck you! How dare you grab my butt??!!!!
What I did was stand stock still, frozen. What I said was… nothing. Nothing! Hand-on-butt, he waited a beat or two. Mom didn’t seem to notice. Dad walked away. I didn’t say anything. Mom didn’t say anything. What happened then? Nothing.
The next time it happened. Fifteen years later. I was 50. He was 80. My parents were visiting San Francisco. I was standing between them, in my bedroom. What were we saying? I can’t remember. We were facing west. Facing my bed. We had already put down their suitcases. I don’t know why we were standing there. In a row. I was in the middle.
That’s when he grabbed my butt and asked,
Whose property is this?
Frozen. A-fucking-gain. Speechless. Legless. My Mom was right there. Silent. There was no way she could have missed this situation. He held tight. Then, met with my silence, he let go. I must have suggested they get settled in, rest. I told them I was going into the living room to take a nap on the couch. So civilized. So in control — NOT. I pretended to sleep. They rested. An hour later Dad came in, sat down, and gave me a history lecture, you know, like a friendly, unsolicited history lecture.
Several months later, I told Mom what happened. She said she hadn’t noticed.
Is it a problem? she asked.
Yes, it is, I said.
Do you want me to tell him?
The next time he saw me, he gave me a distant hug and asked timidly, Is this ok?
Yes, I said.
Dad’s last years were filled with dementia, which left him very sweet, like the 5 year old boy Thich Nhat Hanh had asked me to picture him as in one of his guided meditations. Dad and I had a great relationship those last few years.
ps. I can see I need to clarify here. I do not think my father was a sexual predator. I do think this was his attempt to show affection. This was pretty much the only affection I received from him, and as a child, I remember it as such. Still, my brother never received this affection from him. Or maybe any. My father was smart and street smart. He was not emotionally intelligent. Far from it. I’m not blaming him; I’m just saying his words and actions had their impact.
4 thoughts on “Brave and Afraid AF — Part One”
He probably thought of the butt grab and comment as affectionate but if it wasn’t ok with you, it wasn’t ok or appropriate
I had no choice as a child. I do not think, and did not mean to imply he was a sexual predator. See my above PS. As an adult, I had lost the ability to say No! I was terrified of his rage. Even when he was 80, I was terrified of him. When he had dementia, he turned sweet and harmless; then it was I was able to love him and not be afraid. xo, g
Is it still like this, I wonder? Father is to be feared. “The hand”! The father of the ’50s–absent, emotionally and physically, many like mine “on the road” for business for days at a time, then appearing at the end of the work day or the work week (it was the fathers who did the work; what the mothers did was something else, something less important) to be tip-toed around, obeyed, feared. Clearly the system of patriarchy does not lead to men’s happiness any more than women’s.
Thanks for writing your heart, Gayle. I look forward to listening to the podcast. Because of your courageous example of persistence in building community, I’ve been inspired to introduce this subject into conversations with myself and others and eliciting some interesting responses. 🙂
Thanks, Anita! I’m happy to know that I have helped to inspire some conversation. xo, g