When is it enough?

I lost my shit at my two eldest (oldest? elder?) boys tonight. I just couldn’t take it anymore. Let me set the scene: Picture it, Ottawa, January 2018. It was cold, damn cold. Everything frozen cold. It was the day after I found out that Aziz Ansari is yet another disappointment and the day I was too distracted to stop the dog with diarrhea from eating the cheese the baby was throwing on the floor because I was too busy tweeting at the morning CBC radio program after they interviewed some rando CEO woman explaining that #metoo is problematic because male CEOs are now afraid to mentor women for fear of being accused of harassment.

So, after serving dinner that the baby daddy stuck in the oven after I pulled out this particular meatloaf from the freezer of meals that I put together for a month’s worth of hot meals for our modest family of 7 on a budget to the particular tastes of each snowflake, I agreed to drive the boys to their dad’s to get their most essential possessions (a Nintendo switch, a PS4, a chromebook, and deodorant–ESSENTIALS!).   (Side note, if you look up “run-on sentence” in the dictionary you will find that last sentence.) The boys would not stop arguing with each other about… I don’t know… whatever…. they are both apparently victims and neither ever does anything wrong and is perfect or something and how dare they… jabber jabber jabber.

So, I said if they don’t stop arguing and swearing at each other loudly on our street, I wouldn’t take them… last warning! … I’m counting to three! Okay, I’m stoooopppping the carrrrr???? Finally they stopped. I paused. I stared into space. I thought for a second. All was quiet. As I started to back out of the driveway, I said “you know, I’ve been thinking, boys, about some things… I’d really like to see you guys think more about others. I think you’re both awesome and wonderful but I’d like you to contribute more around the house… blah blah blah.

We pulled up to the five-way intersection 50 feet from our house that I navigate every day. We got there second among a few people. I let the person to my left go. I pulled into the intersection. The driver to my right starts to rapidly enter the intersection seeming to aim his car at my middle son sitting in the passenger seat. I slammed on the brakes and honked. I see he’s yelling at me. My adrenaline is at maximum capacity so I roll down the passenger window, cup my hand to my ear and say “Sorry, what’s that you say??” (I know, so mature).

The old white guy, gets all extra ragey and as I start to move, I hear him yell “Drive your car, IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!”

I slammed on the brakes again. Oh no, you didn’t.

What, dear reader, was I thinking I was going to do? I dunno. I wanted to sit there forever and just piss him off. But within 3 seconds figured I best just keep driving. So I did. The boys thought this was all hilarious. I was shaken. I was like what just happened. I didn’t find it totally funny. I kept thinking, did that guy just call me an idiot? Did I just taunt some lunatic with my vehicle? My ego was screaming. My deepest sense that I’m the best and the worst. I’m an idiot? Let me pause in the middle of this intersection and tell you who I am. An idiot and an asshole, apparently.

I was also annoyed that this whole thing interrupted my speech to the boys about how they need to think about others more and stop being so focused on their own needs. MY new years’ resolution is to be of service to others (apparently aside from anyone in an intersection). I want the boys to stop focusing so much on winning arguments and telling each other what to do. Why don’t they start doing more for others, by like, I don’t know, not leaving their dirty underwear in the TV room. As the boys were laughing at the ragey driver, I said something about being tired of white men telling me what to do. To which my white son told me, “Mom, you don’t need to add that about white men. Statements like that never make anything better.”

I lost it. I just lost it. Like, I just got out of a dangerous, scary situation where we almost got T-boned by some red faced screaming white guy in an SUV and the salient point is #notallwhiteguys. So, I yelled. I yelled about a bunch of pent of up feelings about feeling like they treat me like I’m a doormat and that I’m just here to clean up after them and then be told I suck.  I screamed about the fucking YouTubers they watch who mock “Social Justice Warriors” who are women who have been harassed and raped and murdered.  I yelled too loudly, for too long. I got some sorry, I love yous from one and nervous nail biting from the other.

I am not proud of any of this. I know that my behaviour was not a shining example of how I want to mother. But I just couldn’t take it anymore.

After they got their stuff, I asked them if they wanted to talk about it. I refused to apologize but I pulled it back together in terms of having my feelings hurt and that I love them unconditionally and that their behaviour is very typical of teenagers. They aren’t different from other people. They aren’t bad people, I just think they could think of others a bit more… or something. I don’t even remember. *sigh*

Recently a black woman in one of my secret facebook groups posted that she was tired of black women doing the heavy lifting in the #resistance and that white people (all of us included) needed to fix the shit show that is the current state of the US, led by a shithole of a president.  I saw another person I follow on Twitter start a similar conversation. He had recently been kicked off of Twitter temporarily for calling out white supremacy.  There was general agreement from the African Americans responding to the original posts. White people, not so much. Some white people said “You’re right, I should be doing more.”  More than one white dude said “we shouldn’t look at race. I only see rainbows and unicorns when I see people” (I might have added the rainbows and unicorns part).  A number of white people said “I agree but I’m awesome, look what I’ve done.” Some white people said “You white people need to listen to these black people.”

I had feelings about these statements but I said nothing. I didn’t know what to say.  I wanted to whip out my resume and my family history of do-gooders (well, only the part of my family history that was good, not the part that slave-owning part or the capitalist class grandparents that exploited Mexican land run out of town on horseback by Pancho Villa’s men.) I wanted to self-flagellate and say “You’re right… I’m the worst,” so that I could make it all about me and my feelings. I wanted to justify my not doing much lately by pointing to my toddler or my recovery or my work or whatever.  But I did nothing.

I’ve been trying to just sit in the discomfort.   I’m trying to think about what I can do that doesn’t make things worse. I’m thinking about what I can do that makes things better,  that isn’t about me being a hero, that isn’t about my ego. I called out some racists on a friends’ facebook post, but that’s hardly a revolution. There are things I have done over the course of my life, but I won’t say that they are enough. It is taking everything in me not to type out the things I have done because I want that validation.

I don’t know what it would mean if I were to do enough. What I do know is that I need to separate doing enough from being enough. I am enough. My kids are enough even if they’re not doing enough. I don’t think I’m doing enough for the resistance.

Since yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. day in the U.S., I found this quote from him and it painfully hits home:

“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”― Martin Luther King Jr.

To be honest, I have been very preoccupied lately with my own tranquility.  In part, I have to be because no one else will. But in another sense, it’s an unrealistic goal. I want to explain that I did my part. I paid my dues. I don’t need to do anymore, that’s someone else’s job. I want to feel comfortable. I don’t want to be yelled at or called out.  I want to feel calm and safe and sit in a space that lets me avoid my deepest fear that I am always forever doing right.  But that’s just not possible. It’s not possible to allow injustice to persist and for the people who are victimized by oppression to not be pissed off. It’s not possible to reap the rewards of an exploitative systems and have the exploited be okay with it. There can be no comfort while injustice persists.

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