Exercise 2: Things My Father Taught Me


I don’t think I could define this exercise or the next without typing out the entire chapter that preceded them.  Let me just recommend Method and Madness: The Making of a Story by Alice LaPlante again, and move on with today’s exercise.  ((Also, yes, I did skip posting a few up here, partly because I wrote them in my notebook on the train, and I didn’t want or have time to type them up so I didn’t.))

What you need to know is self-explanatory.  For anyone willing to critique this, I’m too close to it – so if you could just point to the points that are too vague or don’t elicit any kind of feeling for you as the reader at all, that would be great.

Things My Father Taught Me:
1) How not to cry in front of anyone else – ever – because even though he’d hold you on your worst night when the world had fallen apart and you didn’t think you could hold yourself together without aid, he would bring it up later to use against you just when you had started to feel stronger – just in time to break apart the scabs that were developing and send you back down the hole again.
2) How to stand alone, be that rock that everyone expects you to be, and not call anyone – at all – until it’s gotten so awkward that you’re not even sure you can call them now, or what you would say if you did.  How it’s okay to say, “You’ve been busy,” and leave it at that even though no one else understands being the kind of busy that you can’t or don’t have time to call anyone or even write them letters.  How to be that kind of busy.
3) That only lazy people can’t sleep at night.  Only people who don’t work hard enough find it difficult to lose consciousness when the hour gets late enough; only people who don’t want to work hard find it difficult to wake up in the morning.  Unless they’ve got a bug…which doesn’t happen all that often.
4) Shame is for the weak, and for those who aren’t on the side of good and right.  That it’s okay to think that people are ashamed of you, but it’s not okay to care that they do – or might be.  (I was never ashamed of his weight, never embarrassed for him to drop me off at school in the morning.  I always wanted him to come to my skating competitions and shows, and if I was ever ashamed about anything it was that I couldn’t perform better on the days he did come.)  How to ignore something inside of yourself for so long that you could blame it on others when the time when you were forced to acknowledge its existence came.
5) How to tell everyone to fuck off when what they were doing or saying wasn’t helping your situation at all, but how to eat yourself up inside anyway – as though you’d absorbed all those words already.
6) How to be the kind of strong that you can take anything – anything at all – from outside opponents, not let it change your path, and never care or even think about them once they’ve gone.  How to do what he said, and not what he had done or did do.  How to hold pain inside so long that it only surfaces with too much alcohol, and you have to support him in any way you can because you didn’t know how much he beat himself up inside over things that were never his fault.

Things My Father Didn’t Teach Me:
1) How to cope with the nameless, voiceless monsters in your head when they start making indefinable, wordless noise at night.  What to do on the mornings the sun doesn’t force them back into your subconscious.
2) How to know when it’s okay to accept help, or what to do when your ex breaks your lease, leaving you with an apartment you could barely afford when it was split between two people.  How to run crying into the arms of new friends because you have no one else to turn to, and she took your closest remaining friend to the pound while you were at work one day but not before shutting off the internet and phone that you had paid for until the end of the month – when there were still 28 days left in said month.  How to cope with the fact that you’ve allowed her to separate you from all of your closest friends and family members because you had to be ‘strong’ for her and because – that’s just who and how you were.  How to recognize that this was a patter with all of your exes, and what to do about that.
3) What form that ‘I’ve been busy’ might take when occasionally you can’t call people because the idea of picking up the phone for anyone – anyone – made you want to throw yourself at a wall repeatedly until you couldn’t physically do anything – let alone answer or pick up a phone.
4) What it was like to feel trapped inside of your own mind, unable to move your body or do anything at all except breathe.  How one can torture one’s self within one’s own mind more effectively than any outsider ever could.  The kinds of things you can tell yourself in the shower when there’s no one else to see you curl in on yourself and collapse to the floor, and there’s no barriers left between your body and that horribly cold wall that you have to press into for support against all of the things you attack yourself with.
5) How to find a job when you’ve lost the only one you could find a few months ago, and the creditors start calling…
6) How to handle all of that being alone he taught you how to do.

Thank you for reading, and have a lovely day.

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