My mind seems stuck these days on this whole issue of pleasure vs. functionality. The other day my cousin came into the room while I was working on an afghan for the newest addition to our family. When he saw what I was doing he said, “Oh, you’re sowing seeds of kindness again,” and began humming the old hymn, Bringing in the Sheaves.
I hadn’t thought in terms of sowing anything, I simply wanted to give my new granddaughter something made with my own two hands. On the verge of blasting myself once again for falling into the I’m functional, therefore I am trap, I caught myself just in time. This isn’t about being functional, I reasoned, for I’m creating a work of art, of sorts. And art isn’t functional, really. That is, it does serve a purpose but we could live without it. Or could we? As a child I wondered why the sky was blue, the grass green–questions common to most kids of a young age. They didn’t have to be any color at all, did they?
But back to this whole afghan thing. Neither my son or daughter in-law or new grandchild would know the difference if I never made one. They could exist quite well without it. After all, their baby has plenty of store bought and hand-me-down blankets. So why make this one? Because doing so will enrich their lives, if only on a small scale. Because it will give them the sense, perhaps subconsciously, of someone caring enough to create something specifically for this new little life they’ve brought into the world.
Oh I’m treading on dangerous ground here. Watch it, I scold myself, just watch it. You might not like some of the conclusions you arrive at if you continue along this line of reasoning.
I can’t seem to help myself. I’ve held in so many desires and dreams and, yes, a thirst for pleasure, for so many decades that I positively need to do this. Need to sort out my thinking on the subject. See what distorted concepts have ruled my life, and toss them out if I’m capable of doing so.
Sometimes, just before another episode of abuse, in that split second when I knew it was going to happen again, the thought flashed through my mind that if I just did as I was told, maybe it would put the stepdad in a better mood. Maybe he would treat the rest of the family better for my easy compliance to his demands. (As if I had any choice!)
Beneath this hopeful thought was the yearning to be loved as a daughter. If I do what he says maybe this time he’ll be so happy that he’ll realize what a good step-daughter I am. Maybe he will love me in a fatherly way from now on.
I cringe just writing that. Of course I had no choice in what was done to me. The thought that I did was part of the Magical Thinking I needed to indulge in. I hadn’t yet learned that life is messy, all over the place, seldom fair, and most of all precarious. I needed for things to make a certain sort of sense. As in, If I do such and such, then so and so will respond in this manner, and life will be good once more. The problem with that is obvious: my stepdad wasn’t playing by the same rules. He was going to have his way with me regardless of my behavior. And, he wasn’t going to love me in a fatherly way no matter what. He wasn’t capable of it.
The need to be creative, to bring beauty into someone’s life, need not be something to be ashamed of. Who does not create and immediately desire to share the results with another? The desire to do this does not, any longer, have to be corrupted by that old Magical Thinking. I am now beyond creating a false compliance to soothe the angry beast. My giving truly is, in a sense, about sowing seeds of kindness. I’m not expecting anything in return. I’m not using my skills and talents to strike bargains or earn love. It’s okay to give!
As children of abuse, we are stripped of so much. It takes a lifetime to even begin to realize the depth of that denuding. The ability to give without thought of gain, to bring pleasure and enrichment to someone’s life just because you choose to, is one more treasure stolen from me. I’m beginning to miss it, and mourn its loss. At the same time, I see that it’s not lost irretrievably. It’s not like the loss of my virginity. This loss is one which can be reclaimed. I need to give myself permission to do so. To enjoy the simplicity of giving without strings attached. Without doubting my motives each time.
And I do, I do give myself permission. No one else can do this for me. And so I decide: this is what I choose to do. I choose to give spontaneously to whomever I choose, and ignore any guilt trying to rear its ugly head. I choose. What a delicious concept! Sowing seeds of kindness? Why not. The world could use more kindness, and I’ve nothing hidden up my sleeve.