Sunday, May 16, 2010

One Word

It may be that I am vastly different from others. I really do not know how the putting away of feelings and impressions is accomplished by those around me. But I do know that I have a need to place the stuff of my life in order, with something akin to the systems that we employed in my 5th and 6th grade classroom. Our class was housed in the school library.
Each day was begun by the checking in and shelving of the library books returned by the school’s student body.

Hence, we had to know the classification and sequencing system of each book in order to shelve it properly. So it is with my thoughts and feelings. I must identify, with an appropriate ‘label,’ each experienced emotional happening, in order to ‘file it away’ comfortably. So, you can see why those ‘labels’ are important to me.

Thus it is that I have been vexed for a number of years by my inability to affix a word to a couple of significant happenings in my life. I have long-known that the process of thought ... the management of impression, emotion, ideas, and the like ... is made possible by the ‘tools’ of thinking. Namely, words. Without those words … those tools … no processing of ideas, feelings, or emotions, is possible.

This awareness is what motivated me to devote every possible moment to the enriching of my son’s linguistic abilities. I would converse with him about totally inane subjects … matters of meaning and import … concepts of vague or abstract impression … specific linkages and/or sequencing of elements of life ...anything that would enable him to better engage in, his own private and personal, experiences of thinking, and sorting out, his mind and spirit’s workings.

I am pleased that I can rest in my knowledge that his abilities, in those areas, developed far beyond the most optimistic of projections, offered by specialists, in disciplines devoted to the treatment, and development, of persons with disabilities. He excelled over any projections presented in estimations of the long-range effects of his cerebral palsy. So, you see, I have a keen understanding of the import of those critical tools of language.

So a word … just the right word … is vitally important to me. And I never relent in my quest for that particular word … as I seek to define, and better understand, and respond to, my life experiences. That one word … that will enable me to place that experience in its proper place on the shelves of my experiential library.

Now, that’s a hell of a lot to say as a prelude to today’s happening. The light-bulb over the head moment when the perfect word presented itself to me. The word that identified, with absolute exactitude, that look that was in my daughter’s eyes when I last saw her. The word that explained all of the depth of meaning being transmitted by her words, demeanor, and spirit, as she dismissed me from her presence. The word that speaks of the volumes of understanding that was present when I was similarly dismissed from my mother’s presence as I, at age 20, left home. One word that I have not for all of these years, been able to find … that I might be able to affix an understanding that would satisfy (and bring resting comfort to my groping for closure.) At last I have been given the wonderful gift of that specific word … it is 'contempt.'

Now, at long last, I can rest in an understanding of what was being conveyed by those two individuals, in those happenings of five years ago (in the instance of my daughter’s presentation) and over forty years ago (with my mother’s indelible look.) I had not encountered that sensation outside of those two experiences … until last week. It was then that I was revisited with the flash-back recall of all of the feelings and emotions associated with a confrontation with contempt. In that instant, the clock of history was spun back … and I, again, saw that look in my mother’s eyes. I relived all that was still fresh from the archives of my recollection. I, afresh and anew, saw utter contempt in the face of my mother.

But now, unlike the previous time, I can simply, and quietly, label it for what it is … and shelve it … with determination to never check that volume out again.

Oxford English Dictionary

The feeling that someone or something is worthless or beneath consideration.


lime said...

i am deeply sorry that you have gone so long without a word to affix for the sake of sorting and also that the most appropriate word, once found, is contempt. it is grievous that it is so. however, it is my wish that in so finding the proper description for such wounding experiences that you do indeed also find some closure and eventually healing and peace. big hugs.

Suza said...

As the Universe’s timing would have it, I was reading this post as Judy Collin’s beautiful song “Both Sides Now” was playing in the background. It has been one of my favourite songs upon first hearing it. And it just popped up on the radio as I was absorbing your words.

There is a line in it that reads “Well something's lost but something's gained in living every day” and I thought how appropriate those words were for your revelation.

The “lost,” it occurs to me, is the painful discovery that a contempt-filled look should ever cross the trusting path between two people, let along the sacred path between father/daughter and mother/son.

But the “gained” is the satisfying discovery that one word can succinctly detail a feeling that has eluded you for all these years. And upon that discovery, lay it to rest. There are some books that aren’t worth re-reading.

And, my friend, from one tortured word to three beautiful ones... I Love You.


Suldog said...

Congratulations, as well as condolences, John-Michael. May the sun shine upon you today :-)

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