Over the weekend, I wrote–Loved Ones: a meditation on toxicity–and was surprised to see so many readers drawn in, particularly on a Saturday night.
I wrote about the sluggishness that came in the aftermath of my son’s initiation… into the family… tragedy. But I didn’t explain that I was equally weighed down by the residue of a respiratory infection. Loitering congestion. In my ears and throat and lymph nodes.
I realize now that this led me to the provocative image that I chose for the piece–or that chose me. After the piece was published, the image continued to play with my consciousness and I found myself responding to a request by an artist on Facebook:
Ok, Saturday-night-stay-in’s –
if you post a picture i will write a poem about it.
Just say, “Hi dug- pic poem, please.”
I sent this and in return he wrote this:
Kelly Salasin’s Kill Strategy
a pic poem by dug Nap
not so sure
kelly always goes
for the jugular
I was stunned by the violence of this tiny piece. Had the artist read my article? Was he judging me? Why hadn’t he taken a scientific angle on this anatomic study–which could have been on the kitchen table, on any given morning, of my childhood, before my father left for the operating room.
When I went in to see the doctor last week, she put me on the table, and massaged down my throat, coaxing toxins from my lymph nodes.
I hadn’t realized that I was so filled.
Not until my son read a single line from the email he received from the relative.
(He refused to let me hear more.)
He was writing back.
I grabbed his laptop, pleaded:
“Please don’t respond again. She’ll only be more venomous. She can’t handle boundaries.”
My son was amused by my passion. He insisted that I didn’t need to worry. That he would be okay.
So with him, I shared the spontaneous visions that were occurring in my mind’s eye on his behalf:
Tearing flesh with fanged teeth.
Ripping jugular veins as a three-headed beast.
Becoming a thousand insects, devouring her brain.
Faced with the mythical proportions of his mother’s protective instinct, he turned toward his father, and calmly challenged his aloofness:
“Where are your feelings,” he asked.
“I am so used to this,” my husband said.
“But she cc-ed you on the Goddamn email,” my son said. “She fucking invited you to watch as she kicked your son in the face.”
My husband remained silent.
We went to bed numb.
As I settled under the covers, it occurred to me that my vision could potentially be injurious so I mustered Metta to send to the One who had attacked my child.
A week has since passed, but the meditation on toxicity continues to force itself into another day. This morning, a Mary Oliver line comes to mind:
Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.
My gift is knowing that a boundary was crossed. Long ago. In my own family of origin. And I failed to defend it.
My husband’s gift is the understanding that he never learned that boundaries were possible–among loved ones–from whom he must claim where he begins… and they end.
Our son wasn’t angry with either of us.
He was simply sad.
He wanted to understand:
How had we lived our entire lives without ever saying, like he had:
(The previous post: Loved Ones: a meditation on toxicity.
(The post after this one: toxicity, part III: legacy.)