Mr. Sensitive

July 23, 2010

Operation Immortal Coil Underway

Going through the contents of my office I found this box:

The writing on the upper left corner of the box is my mother’s and reads “EURE $ HOLDERS CHRISTMAS.”  It’s an entire box of unopened plastic puzzle/maze contraptions designed to torture people to whom you are giving cash as a present.  This box was stashed under the desk in the office, and I guess she left it here when she moved out last fall.  We all hated these things.  For several years at Christmas she would put some cash in one of them–a new one every year–for each of her kids (and Katie) and then watch us spend ten minutes trying to move a stupid ball bearing around a maze to trigger the release mechanism.  This is one of those things that was maddening at the time but is really pretty funny when I think about it now.  I clearly remember one particular Christmas when I thought Charlotte was going to kill Mom over one of these stupid plastic money traps that none of us could figure out how to open.  Charlotte was one who always tried to smooth things over with Mom even if she needed a power sander to do it.  Not this time, though.  After all the crap that Charlotte put up with from Mom for years and years, the money trap was the one affront she couldn’t accept.  Every year we would all complain about how much we hated these things and the next year Mom would use them again.  I didn’t understand why she would insist on flagrantly pissing everyone off (except Katie), but I think I get it now.  She never got any of us to debase ourselves on a large scale for money in the way that her own mother managed to do with her children, and I think the experience of watching us struggle with these things once a year for a few bills must have been a tiny but satisfying release for her.  Her parenting impulses and instincts were all wrong, and I don’t begrudge her giving herself over to that on a small scale.  It’s the large scale indulgence I resented, but it’s all over now one way or the other.

When I found this box–an entire box full of torture devices–I smiled.  My mother hadn’t made me smile in a long time, except perhaps ruefully.  But now I think I’ve come to the point where I can focus on remembering the good things about her rather than perfecting a defense against the bad.  I couldn’t do that when she was here because it made me vulnerable to attack.  Mom sensed weakness, as her mother taught her to, and it brought out the worst in her.  As I think back on it, the things she did to me that I never forgave or forgot all took place when I had a moment of weakness and I made the mistake of looking to her for emotional support.  I don’t know what she thought she was doing, or if she thought about it all, but when she saw a weak point in my armor she stabbed when she should have shielded.  She did that viciously, aggressively, and repeatedly, and I never forgave any of it.  But this box is different.  This box leads me to think that I might be able to forgive her now, because I don’t need to keep the pain in focus.  To lose focus would have been stupid in the extreme while she could still do more harm.  I couldn’t stop her from wanting to hurt her children like that, to hurt me like that, but through emotional vigilance and control of conditions I could take away her ability to do so.  I did that for years and I would have done it forever if I had to.  But I don’t have to anymore.  Now I can smile at that stupid box of money traps, because it is pretty funny, and it can’t hurt me.  It’s out of Mom’s hands now, all of it, and it’s safe for those of us who remember her to decide how we want to remember her.  We get to decide, out of all of it, what lives on.  It’s already started.

July 4, 2010

July 17 – Artist’s Rendering

Congrats, guys.  I’d like to borrow Superman’s headdress sometime if he lets you keep it.  And the chick on the left.

March 28, 2010

Zero Is Goldberry

Filed under: Siblings (More Interesting Title to Come) — lbej @ 10:39
Tags: ,

I did a post about the pitfalls of attempting to be exceptional, and my sister went a different way with it in the comments.  One of the underlying assumptions she makes–in her response to me, and in life in general–is that it’s virtuous to just enjoy being yourself, to enter the world and leave it making no account of yourself to posterity.  I strongly disagree.  By the blood of our people are your lands kept safe, I would say.  The self-satisfied existence of the Bohemians I know and love is only possible because exceptional people invented their computers and their digital cameras and their music players, because exceptional people invented cars and electric lights and refrigerators and electronic data storage.  To put it inelegantly: if you artsy-farters want the luxury of doing nothing, someone has to do something.  If no one had ever tried to become better than those they saw around them, you could still spend your lives picking flowers, but you damn well couldn’t blog about it.

The point is that there are pitfalls in striving to be better, but it is absolutely necessary for the improvement of human living standards and is unambiguously virtuous.  I want to be nice about this, because I am not nice and it is an interesting exercise for me to attempt it.  Here is what I have decided:

My sister is Tom Bombadil.  Powerful and egotistical, yes, but never contemptuous of others and genuinely bemused by their preoccupations.  He’s fun to be around and he seems always to be in the right and in control.  But if Sauron were to defeat all of his other enemies and focus his power on Bombadil alone, Tom would be destroyed.  Sauron would destroy him because that’s what Sauron does, and if the only way to do that would be to destroy the very Earth from which Bombadil draws his power, that’s what Sauron would do.  I wonder if Bombadil would still smile then?  I think he would, actually, which would really piss off Sauron.  But if the White Council and the Rangers and the men of Gondor didn’t care so much about Sauron and the fate of the wider world it would eventually cost Bombadil, even if he was still defiantly disinterested at the very end.  As the Council of Elrond concluded, one shouldn’t expect Bombadil to solve the problems of the age, not because he can’t, but because he just won’t.  That isn’t he does.

I say all this because I’ve known artsy-farters who are disdainful of strivers and I find that offensive and disingenuous.  No one should have been surprised that Tom Bombadil didn’t show up on the Pelennor Fields, and no one should resent him for it.  But I don’t like to think of him sitting in his little house and laughing at those who did choose to fight.  I would resent him for that.

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