December 14, 2016 (Wednesday)

by Yule Heibel on December 13, 2017

Yesterday I picked up a couple of books at the library, one a recommendation by R.: Will I Ever Be Good Enough? by Karyl McBride. It’s subtitled, “Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers.” I don’t think my mother was terribly narcissistic (although others would beg to differ). She had mental health disorders, certainly, some of which (one in particular: years-long depression) had a similar effect on me as what daughters of narcissistic mothers endure: p.7, “Daughters of narcissistic mothers sense that their picture of love is distorted, but they don’t know what the real picture would look like. This early, learned equation of love – pleasing another with no return for herself – has far-reaching, negative effects…” [emphasis added] The effects are similar when dealing with a clinically depressed mother, which was my lot in life. So, it’ll be interesting to work through this book, as the author promises to reveal some healing strategies.

In the afternoon A. and I drove into Cambridge. The plan was to visit Houghton Library for its third of the Beyond Words exhibition. But first I stopped. in to see the Dolores Salcedo exhibition at the Harvard Art Museum. It was powerful. Not easy. Not a pleasant spectacle willing to throw itself at the viewer, but rather withholding. The first display is of the cement-filled furniture pieces, and my initial reaction was to feel annoyed. “Stupid, clunky refuse/ refusing objects, impossible to shift, so heavy, saying nothing,” I thought. But when I speculated that they might look “better” standing upright, revealing their fronts (“faces”) instead of lying down, obscured, with (bureaucratic) tables lain at proper height and usefulness across them, I realized that, no, these objects were perfect. Perfect for what they depicted, the literal oppressed mass(es). Next room: chairs in steel, but made to look, texture-wise, like the wood they were modeled on. But broken. Again, the spatial relationship between the individual and grouped chairs was perfect. Then, two smaller rooms, the one on the right with the “hairshirts,” the one on the left with the incredible rose petal floor cloth. Both delicate and powerful. An embodiment of pain both emotional / spiritual and physical, both works easily destroyed yet occupying at last a revered, respected space.

On to Houghton, and a much smaller exhibition than the one at McMullen. Church book focus. What struck me, thinking about it this morning, was the sadism of the monastic timetable, its sleep interruptions, and its precise and tiny script.

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