I've noticed that when there are big changes and upheavals in my life, I tend to want to focus my energy on something small and unimportant, probably just to give myself some kind of sense of control, I suspect. Madelyn and I have that in common, actually. Occasionally I’ll come home from a hard day of work sitting in the library and making up stories about goblins to find her with a determined look on her face, vacuuming the floors or endlessly scrubbing off the charred bits of food that are welded to the burners on our stove.
“Tough day at work, hun?” I ask, trying not to stare at the gob of black gunk that has sprayed up onto her nose.
“No!” she says, cheerily. “Just have forty-three kids to schedule, and their teachers won’t get back to me, and my supervisor just told me we were getting at least four new students next week who need speech, and I’m supposed to do hearing screenings tomorrow, but I have no idea where, and they asked me to plan the district homecoming party again this year, and I’m pretty sure I’m pregnant, so I thought I’d finally get this oven clean for once.”
(Just kidding - about the her actually being pregnant part, not about the her saying she’s pregnant part. She says that about every other week.)
My own coping mechanism is much less useful than cleaning; I organize my email. Probably because it’s really easy, and I get to delete stuff. I like deleting stuff. Makes me feel cleaner. Healthier. Like scraping dead skin off of sunburn.
Well all this goblin writing and website building and career launching stuff was really stressing me out, so I started sorting my email again yesterday. I found one you sent me, maybe six months ago now. It was a link to an article - “Murdering Your Parents With Joy,” I think it was called, or probably something less offensive than that.
I do remember that the opening line was a quote from Aeschylus’s The Libation Bearers: “Shall I be ashamed to kill my mother?” How cheery! Wikipedia tells me this line comes right after Orestes walks in on the murder of his father by his mother, so that he is then faced with the necessity of murdering his mother to avenge his father. (Old Aeschylus had some smart things to say about the stupidity of revenge.)
The point of the article was that you couldn’t really be a healthy, independent adult unless you “orphaned” yourself in someway, if not by killing your parents like Orestes, then at least by refusing to talk to them on a regular basis. It wasn’t saying you would be better off if your parents were dead... but actually it kind of was. “Break free from me,” you wrote in the email. “Be your own man. I hope I never hold you back.” Etc. Etc.
This was an odd moment for me. It’s a bit of a paradox, you know. Because if I try to get rid of you, then I’m just doing what you say, so I’m not really rebelling against you at all. But if I don’t try to get rid of you, well then I am rebelling against what you say, but I’m still keeping you around. So I’m asserting my independence by not breaking free of you? Odd things to think about.
I think you just sent it because you knew I was starting this grand adventure of mine, setting off into the terrible land of freelance writing, where there be dragons. And I think you sent it ‘cause you love me, and want what’s best for me, even if that means you don’t get to see me. Like White Fang in White Fang.
So thank you for the nice gesture. No, I don’t want you to die, but it means a lot to me that you offered. I’ll set off into the world on my own if you really want me to. Though I’ll still write home on occasion, against your wishes. So there.
With Love Always,
Your son Jordan
Jordan Jeffers writes letters to his mother on the Internet because stamps are a form of witchcraft. Feel free to give him electronic encouragement via the little Facebook and Twitter buttons below. Peace.