Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What Do You Want & The Challenge Of Asking

What would you like? Scary question. Hard question to answer. What do you want?
I used to have a hard time answering these questions. Christmas was a special hell. My mother insisted we make lists. She then made sure to use the list as a mind game: you got maybe one thing from the list and the rest was stuff you couldn't give away and was somehow the opposite of what you figured out you wanted. You wanted a bathing suit? Here's a neon orange jumpsuit. Same thing right? You got in trouble if you cried or looked upset. My brother and I learned to act to deal with Christmas. We learned to be relieved that dad never got us anything. Nothing was better than shit you didn't want. My mother never noticed we gave it away, first to other kids and eventually to thrift stores. Make a list. What do you want? These questions became a Pavlovian trigger. I worked my way around that trigger; finding ways to get what I wanted through work rather than asking. I still struggle with asking, I try to just soldier through with the resources at hand.

A lifetime of adapting and surviving do not lend themselves to frivolity. I started working after sixth grade. I bought my clothes, snacks, books, and anything else I wanted. Ask someone and deal with a guilt trip or just work and have my own choice. Whining or not being responsible with household chores including cooking and cleaning? There was a barn I could live in or face the threat of paying rent to my parents.
I participated in all school activities, worked, and did household chores. I was a social outcast in school: too smart and outspoken to be cool. One day I stopped home to switch out of my soccer uniform to go to work. I was in tenth grade. I was screamed at so often that I do not register the words or sounds. I walked out of my room into my.mother having a screaming fit. I realized it as one of my cleats bounced hard off the wall next to my head. The cleats I had taken off in the mudroom properly. I had done nothing to trigger this. The screaming was shrill. I was exhausted. No tv shows, no fiction depicts this as healthy family reality. Anger welled up. I was next to the ironing board. The iron was sitting there.
I breathed. I quieted my heart and trembling thoughts which were still trying to figure out what I could have done wrong. Stumble. Forgot. Existing was my poor choice. The defiant egg and sperm that joined to create me were not wanted. They didn't care. They multiplied and the many cells of me were standing there facing a sad reality.
I looked at her. She paused to breathe and shriek again. I spoke. I stood.
I picked up the iron. "You will never speak to me in that tone of voice again. You will never raise your voice where I can hear it. My sister will never have to grow up with you being like this because it stops now. I work. I ask you for nothing. I buy what I want. I put up with your petty commands and clean and cook. I do not party. I do not get knocked up. (She opened her mouth and puffed up with a scowl and flushed face). I brandished the iron. There was fifteen feet between us maybe ten. My voice lowered. "I pitch softball. Problem is, when I loathe the batter I hit them in the head every time. Hard. If you came to games you would have seen helmets flipping off heads. You want to try me, go ahead. Scream one more time. I will pitch this fucking iron so fucking hard. See, its your head I have been aiming at. Make my day, otherwise turn around, walk away and pretend from this moment forward that you are normal." I stood. Iron in hand. Muscles tensed. Ready for the pitch. She could see it. She never raised her voice around me again.
That's the one time in life I can think of something I really wanted: to never hear a shrill screaming woman berating me over imagined slights again.

Fast forward to now. What do you want? Love. Kindness. Time to appreciate beauty in the world. Challenges that keep me thinking and growing. Arkham Horror, the board game. A new ebook reader. A wireless microphone set up. Pots and pans. Flooring for our carport tent. A small fridge. Eventually a generator. Finally. I feel comfortable answering the question of what I want. Now to work on asking. It is amazing to be at a point in my life where I feel I can start asking. I look forward to the moment where the fear of being burdensome in asking is a faded afterthought I can leave in a garbage can somewhere.