I have always looked to find love online. Squeezing words through fiber optics to try and reach through the screen—to lace hands, to comfort, to talk through the things lost in time delays and bad dial-up connections. 2003-era LiveJournal primed me to receiving digital love, and now, like a junkie reminiscing about the “softer stuff”, I’m nostalgic for its design affordances. On LiveJournal, the only way to acknowledge, express approval, or “hate-like” something was by leaving a comment. Responding through text suggests nuance, and in this way, expands past the binary of “liked” or “not liked.”
In Erich Fromm’s classic (yet overly conservative and, by today’s standards, sexist) The Art of Loving, there is a chapter about the conceptual differences between motherly and fatherly love. I’ve found Fromm’s ideas useful as an analogy for social networks and algorithmically controlled social structures. He claims that as a child matures and takes her place in society, she is simultaneously moving from the realm of motherly, unconditional love, into the realm of fatherly love. Here, she must fulfill the prerequisites of patriarchy’s conditions in order to earn love. Similarly, the digital affirmations we receive throughout the day can feel like a simulacra of unconditional love—until we’re bereft of these affirmations, and we realize we have to constantly work to earn them.
Tell them that I stood
and I waited
and I waited
But I never got
And I keep that scrap
in my pocket
just in case
When my mom was pregnant with me she couldn’t take her antipsychotics.
A brave choice to actively choose to carry each day. An act of love that can only come from a mother.
Despite not having her medication, I was told she didn’t have any ‘episodes,’ leading her to believe she could take care of me. That she was better.
But those postpartum hormones came rushing in fast like a tsunami and pulled the voices and delusions back with it.
I was put in foster care and loved by strangers for almost two years before my grandparents made their own choice of love and adopted me.
The article I found in 2018 filled my belly like pregnancy with curiosity and drive to learn more about the mind hormone connection.
How powerful hormones can be. How fickle.
A dance they do to keep our bodies and minds in equilibrium - but one wrong move can discombobulate an entire routine.
The article, Women being diagnosed with schizophrenia during a time when their own bodies cut the chord like winter, making the choice for them that they can no longer carry a child, is significant:
The hormonal dance has shifted, and a mental illness was triggered.
But being introduced to E (estrogen) like ecstasy in a club made a difference.
But isn’t that what my mother felt with me in her belly? 9 months of normalcy. Quietness.
Her brave choice made out of love, Bittersweet Faith like a double edged sword, found temporary healing through her belly.
Honestly, all of the work I wish to create is led by my need to process and heal the really big familial elephants in the room, in my belly, (through my belly).
Women with hormonal shifts are declared ‘crazy’ like being made a knight with a sword, only to slice through our shoulders, making it harder to carry the weight of what is actually happening.
This work is bigger than me.
When my mom was 14, the umbilical chord that connected her and her mother together was cut, and the illness in her mind developed.
She was on antipsychotics for half of her life.
Placed in a group home by overwhelmed parents, she eventually found love, and made me.
She died in her early 30s, caused by a rare form of cancer in her bone.
I was 6.
I have memories of her like scenes in a movie.
She was tall like me and her eyes were bigger than her stomach, unlike mine. She would come over to visit me at my grandparent’s house in Virginia to play. She always had a big smile on her face.
Her teeth are like mine. Her lips, her nose. Her cheeks.
She loved birds and cats, keeping them as pets. As a teen she wrote letters to God about wanting to be a light in this world, not blaming Him for what was happening to her. I have one of them.
The French term for I miss you translates as “you’re missing from me.” So I had it tattooed on my rib.
And her strength, like a tiger, is forever painted on my arm.
I am processing.
thinking of how children love. thinking of children's preference to gift loved ones handmade presents and drawings because it is the only thing that is truly theirs. everything else feels borrowed, or their parents', and the only thing they really own is whatever they make, and they choose to give this of all things away as a gesture of love.
Take it from me: memory is your greatest ally and your primary source material, because memory is your body as it was in the world and the world as it was and will be; memory is the people you have loved or wanted to love in the world, and what are we if not bodies filled with reminiscences about all those ghosts in the sunlight?
∆ Hilton Als, “Ghosts In Sunlight,“ The New York Review of Books (10 July 2014)
first time i knew you existed the rest of the history of the world popped like a bubble unready unworthy and my body wanted only future, only you.