Thursday, 20 November 2014

Still Life

Over these last few months I have been doing a lot of decorating/renovating work in the house. One thing that came to the surface, as I got on with this work, is how much I procrastinate when it comes to renovate things and how much resentment and irritation I feel over it. Thinking about it one day, I wondered where this came from, since - realistically speaking- renovating and replacing things that break is an unavoidable part of life. Why was it such an issue for me? When I dug a bit deeper, I realised that this was a learned behaviour, a flea from my FOO.  My parents never took any joy in doing anything in the house. Since they rent, their mentality was that there was no point in "making it nice just to leave it to the landlord", (which would make sense if they'd only been there a couple of years, but have now been living there for nearly 40 years.) As I thought about it further, it struck me how Ns are like a Still Life painting: they don't learn anything new, they don't grow or change, they remain exactly the same as they have always been. When I think of my relationship with them, it's the same. It has remained at the same point that it has always been (not better, not worse) since as far as I can remember, and that it's odd, because when I think of my relationship with my husband it is completely different: we have changed and we have grown together and though we still have things to work on as a couple, we are closer than we were when we started our relationship. And that's how it should have been with my FOO. But it's not, because they're like 'static beings', stuck in a loop of their own creation, where everything is always the same and remains the same. They keep the 'loop' constantly in motion so as to give the impression of 'moving', but the loop is like a merry-go-round: it moves fast, but doesn't go anywhere. 

They want their lives to look like a Still Life painting because that's what they live for: a "perfect" picture of themselves. Except that that only remains the same in the painting, the fruit the painter captured went on to rot eventually. In Spanish, the term for 'Still Life' is 'Dead Nature'. I wouldn't have put it better myself. 

Naturaleza muerta

Friday, 14 November 2014

"Thy truth, then, be thy dower."

        Yesterday afternoon I was watching a documentary about Shakespeare's play "King Lear". It's part of a series called "My Shakespeare", in which well-known actors explore some of his plays. As I started to listen to actor Christopher Plummer relate the story of King Lear, it struck me that I knew nothing about that particular play. Considering my passion for literature, how on earth did I make it to my forties without not even knowing the basic plot? I don't know how it has escaped me for so long... but I digress... 
         In the first scene, Plummer relates, King Lear tells his daughters he is going to divide the kingdom in three parts: "the portion each daughter will get depends on how eloquently they say they love him."

Tell me, my daughters,—
Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state,— 
Which of you shall we say doth love us most? 

Plummer continues: "King Lear is hoping to give the best portion to his youngest and favourite daughter, Cordelia. But he has miscalculated the family dynamics." The dialogue that followed blew me away, see if the dynamics look familiar to you too. 

Our eldest-born, speak first.

Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter; 
Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty; 
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour; 
As much as child e'er loved, or father found;
A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable; 
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.

CORDELIA  [Aside.] 
What shall Cordelia do? Love, and be silent. 

What says our second daughter,
Our dearest Regan, wife to Cornwall? Speak. 

I am made of that same mettle as my sister, 
And prize me at her worth. In my true heart
I find she names my very deed of love; 
Only she comes too short, that I profess
Myself an enemy to all other joys, 
Which the most precious square of sense possesses,
And find I am alone felicitate
In your dear Highness' love. 

Now, our joy, 
Although our last and least, to whose young love 
The vines of France and milk of Burgundy 
Strive to be interess'd; what can you say to draw
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.

Nothing, my lord.



Nothing will come of nothing, speak again. 

Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth, I love your majesty
According to my duty, nor more nor less. 

How, how, Cordelia? mend your speech a little,
Lest it may mar your fortunes.

Good my lord, 
You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I 
Return those duties back as are right fit, 
Obey you, love you, and most honour you.
Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry 
Half my love with him, half my care and duty: 
Sure, I shall never marry like my sisters, 
To love my father all.

But goes thy heart with this? 

 Ay, good my lord. 

So young, and so untender? 

So young, my lord, and true. 

Let it be so; thy truth, then, be thy dower!

Cordelia's predicament is the predicament of every ACoN. She stands her ground and refuses to give flattery and adulation, even if it means losing everything, and that is the predicament that we find ourselves in too. When King Lear says: "Let it be so; thy truth, then, be thy dower", I heard it as if King Lear was speaking to me directly and not to Cordelia. I understood the meaning as if it had been said to me too. And then it dawned on me that it has been said to me: it's the "unspoken" dialogue that takes place between Narcissistic parents and their child who refuses to worship them. The words are never uttered, but the message is transmitted, nonetheless, and it hangs loud and clear over the child. It's a form of meta-communication which every ACoN understands perfectly. 

Very well, then, if that's what it takes: "let my truth be my inheritance"