Saturday, May 25, 2013

You're Fine and You Hate it

I'm fine. You're fine. We're all fine. You hear it all the time in the parenting debates. Well, my daddy whipped me good and I'm fine! Well, my mommy slapped my mouth when I was rude and I'm fine! The examples abound and certainly aren't limited to any individual imagination. Anything a parent did is deemed above reproach, above analysis let alone judgment, as long as the victim decides she was fine.

I'm fine. I'm fine, fine fine. It's actually a mantra if you think about it. One doth protest too much. If we're all so fine, why do we scream it out, type it out in all caps, following the debate as if swimming desperately after a fish we can't catch, determined to prove something, maybe to ourselves more than to anyone else. Maybe if we say it enough, we'll believe it. Maybe if we type it out enough times, we'll rewrite our childhoods, replacing each incident of fear and pain with rosy memories of hugs and a scratchy beard from our fathers. 

Made by The Vegan Momma

I'm fine, you tell me. What is fine, really? What does it mean? You're alive? You working. You're a student.  A mother. Maybe a wife. A friend to someone. Is that what fine means, that you exist? That you're not running through the town setting off bombs or setting fire to buildings? As long as you're not going postal, you're fine.

Or maybe I'm fine means I'm not in prison. Maybe it means I'm not homeless, living in a drugged up half-aware state of being. What a low expectation for life, to be fine. To be fine must mean ignoring not only a deep part of ourselves but anything that could make life better, that could change our lives from surviving to thriving. As long as I can walk, talk, eat and exist, my parents are above reproach. Can anyone see, we've built prisons in our minds and we're content to live in them. The expectations we have for being fine are 3 square meals and an hour in the electric-fence courtyard at our prisons. With a certain death penalty at the end of each life.

I'm fine rings out with a certain sensation of accusation, albeit without judge and jury. This is where most people don't see the irony. If the way someone treated us was so good, so wholesome, so ethical and right, then the inherent assumption is that you're great. I'm fine whispers more. I'm fine says, "I survived." It's says, "I was hurt deeply but I'm still here." Those who scream out I'm fine are in actuality conceding to the very points in all those anti-spanking debates. 

I'm fine we all say. Then we stand by silently as someone cuts us off on the road or in person. We turn down promotions, praise, projects and other things that would deeply satisfy us but scare us, that remind us of our fineness. I'm fine, we say as we lightly laugh at the idea of a pop, a pinch, a yell or smack somehow crippling us. Ha! Crippling us, can you imagine it? Then we go about tidying our prison, snapping out hateful words in a fight, unable to hold back a barrage of irrational statements at a loved one, bewildered as to where such energy came from or how it escaped. 

I'm fine! We shout it out, some kind of testimony intended to block out the list of violations, big and small, that continues to grow in our life because the will to stand up is gone. Your mind flashes to the time a college friend hit you and you turned away instead of fighting back. You recall the time a lady cut in line and you smiled but felt sick inside. Or how about that one time the waiter brought you the wrong dish at a restaurant and you shoved it into your mouth, not even tasting it, chewing methodically, determined to accept what was given to you. It's fine, fine, all fine.

You're fine, you think, as you turn down praise. You're fine, even though you startle when someone larger than you walks by, too close for comfort. You're fine you whisper to yourself, as you watch your child's eyes widen with surprise, no, betrayal, then darken with fear at your behavior. You're fine and your child will be fine, too.

Because that's the final step to declaring your fineness in this world. If you're fine, you don't have to think about what others did to you, analyze their behavior, learn new ways, acknowledge deep scars and work on healing. If you're fine, then you're free to treat others that way, specifically your children. If someone smacked you and you're fine, then you've got a green light to smack your children. 

And that makes you feel good on some level, even if you refuse to consciously accept it. It makes you feel good to finally not be on the receiving end. It feels good to be the big guy, who can dole out the hurt instead of taking it. You don't just struggle with the discomfort of looking inwardly. You struggle with the giddy desire to hurt someone the way you were hurt.

But then that makes you feel bad inside. It makes you feel slimy. So you get onto Facebook. You come on over to a parenting debate. You quickly type a comment, breath catching, fingers cold but flying over the keys, "That's stupid! A little smack isn't bad! I was spanked and I'm fine!" 

If only you could make yourself believe that you're fine, then you won't have to forgive your parents. And you won't have to forgive yourself. You won't have to lie down in bed at night and replay the look on your child's face or hear the hurt in your child's voice. You won't have to think back to those times when someone hurt you and it hurt in a way that wouldn't fade. You won't have to worry about apologies, murmurs of reassurance, of trying harder and failing again. 

You're fine. And you hate it. 

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