Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Toxic Parenting

We live in a world that covets the blame game. Why is my life so dull? Why are my career options so limited? Why can't I find true love? Why do I have mental health issues? Where did my life go so wrong? How did we elect this president?... To each of these questions, and countless more, we have justified our misfortune by casting the villain of the piece in question as, for example: lack of privilege, racial and biological inequity, predatory relatives, so-called friends, enemies... etc. When we do widen the net to encompass relationships closer to home and have it snag our nearest and dearest: parents, siblings, closest friends, staunchest allies... the picture becomes infinitely more complicated. Are we betraying a confidence? Are we the manifestation of selfishness? Are we targeting the persons we love simply to deny our own complicity in our own messes?
Academia is full of studies that reveal parenting to be the worst kind of hit-and-miss shit show in the collective drama of our lives - a crisis that lurches from one happenstance to the next... a cold, hard bed of existential, philosophical, and diabolically continuous dread... a dark, lonely passage unlit and unguided resulting in the revelation of base truths about ourselves that we had, until then, spent most of our lives trying desperately to keep at bay.
We have the best time of our lives at singular moments in the journey that is parenting, surely, but when we see the impact of what we have wrought or ignored, manifested in the shape and form of someone who has relied on us so completely for so long as to be as much of an inescapable reflection of ourselves as possible, do we look back and see the stark pitfalls in the parenting we experienced ourselves... or do we dismiss these sharply affecting insights as the needless, ungrateful, harking back to a different time in a different space at a different epoch in the history of human evolution?
It stands to reason that when we examine our own experiences in the parenting that we had as children, we could avoid some of the mistakes that we now readily forgive our forbears for, in the light of the magnanimity that comes from seeing ourselves as more enlightened persons living in a better resourced age.
When we remember our innumerable moments of shame over the course of a lifetime of dependence on our parents that now seem so silly or juvenile in hindsight, do we also think of what we would have done better? When we reflect on our stubbornly unchanging patterns of behaviour, on the legacy of our ways of thinking, on our memories of a million regrets, do we also imagine that we could very well have done without them being allowed to begin life as small inconsequential bits of mania that were ignored, laughed at dismissively, tolerated as 'oh-so-cute'? 'It is what made us who we are', we think, and live out our days swatting back the rancour that might erupt from the depths of our consciousness and disrupt the nice arrangements we now have for vacation/day/sleepover care that allow us a smidgen of relief from having that unrelenting mirror reflecting back to us; the multiple inadequacies, the lazy neglect, the terrible scrutiny of our subjective experiences with our parents, that are now helplessly being visited on our own children.
To instill a lifelong sense of debt over years and years of repetitive psychological cultivation... to expect a blind obedience to manifestly outdated and treacherously subjective self-sabotaging behaviours... to demand loyalty and allegiance from those who are now charting the various paths of their own lives, based not on what you once knew to be true and are now too scared to challenge, but on their own moral imperatives that have revealed themselves over the course of experiences of which you were never a part. If we are honest with ourselves, these are the antitheses of 'our responsibility to guide our children', aren't they? 'Encapsulating complicated relationships into three glib statements is just silly', you say. 'I most definitely do not identify with any of these', you state, as you call your son for the third time this week to ask why it is he never calls you back.
Perhaps an honest reflection on the sins of the past will make us less anxious of our own inevitable sins to come in the continuous evolution of our collective journeys as parents in this, the bespoke age of dark and limitless confusion.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Finding a fit

The tail of the dragon is long,
Bearing ridges, serrated edges, the marks of a thousand vanquishings.
Would it covet the length of its appendage so much as reflect on its provenance?
But the dragon is unfeeling, we know... and unthinking
Didn't I read today about dinosaurs
And their inability to recognise, from sight or smell,
The toxicity of the flowers that would bring about their demise.

Are we better off
In the now, then, and forever more,
When we barely ward off the danger of our potency
While we revel in the puzzle of our mortality?

Why do I see the mentally ill, the psychologically wanting, the pathologically inclined
In every little morsel of 'content' that I consume?
Are we becoming better at recognising the germ of our own self-destruction
And describing it... in song, dance, and animation
A little too vividly for anyone's cultivated comfort?

After all we are creatures of the gag reflex...
How else would we have survived
The terrifying exigencies of war,
The stark emergency of grief,
The lonely abyss of existence,
The narrow, stifling fact of form?

What is normal, anyway?
The usual and comforting facade of fear?
The car in the driveway, the bloodied knife at the butcher's
Hidden from the prying eyes
Of kids who tallied too long at their first dissection?

Would I the luxury of perpetual arrival
In foreign lands at the dead of night
Staring down a forked road whose outlines barely to discern
One way to defeat
And the other, to a benumbed despair.

Thursday, February 8, 2018


What would you have me write about?

Perhaps of an immutable substance meeting an unstoppable force,
Or the unchanging injustices of the world.
Commentary on the good fortunes of some of us, maybe?
And the bad fortunes of others...
The changing climate or the worsening weather,
The cyclical nature of our collective misfortune,
The widening gap between what we know to be true and what we believe is the truth,
The systemic and structural nature of our disadvantage,
The inhumanity of our policies, the surreality of our goals, the entrenchment of our privilege, the colour of our sins...
Maybe I could write about youth and beauty and poverty and disability...
Or about missing: the forest for the trees, the wind for the windmills, gravity for the falling apple.

But whatever I do decide to write about, I'd like you to know this...

That nothing is changing for the better,
That that arc of progress or that rainbow in the clouds,
Isn't bending towards justice or leading us to the promised land.
That they are, in fact, mired in a thousand disgraces,
That every day pile on the indignity... the perversion...
Of an unmired thing, a fitful beast, a false positive orbit
Of the triumph of hate over passion,
Of transactional pride over peace,
Of visceral, perpetual, envious longing...
Over fulfillment.