Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 30: Every Time

(I’m sitting at a computer, typing away. Libra arrives from elsewhere and watches me, deciding not to engage quite yet. She watches as I stop typing and read back over what I wrote. After a moment I tweak a passage, and then another. A minute goes by. Two minutes. Finally Libra speaks up.)

Libra (College me): What are you working on?

Mom (Present me, still staring at the screen): Mastodon message.

Libra: Oh, you’re writing a thread?

Mom: No, just a single post.

Libra (surprised): You’re spending this much time on a single post?

Mom: It’s kind of a personal post… So yes.

(Libra watches me as I tweak a sentence, then tweak it again. Finally, after another reread, I’m reasonably satisfied.)

Mom: I think this is about right…

(I click the “Post” button and lean back in my seat.)

Libra: That was a lot of effort for a single post.

Mom: Was it? I want to make sure what I write is relevant, accurate, not offensive, doesn’t center me unnecessarily…

Libra (interrupting): For a casual social media post? Goodness that’s a lot! How often do you run through those checks!?

Mom (sheepish): Every time.

Libra (shocked): You give every single message that level of scrutiny!?

Mom (tense): Maybe not *every time*, but every time I’m trying to comfort someone, or whenever I put a piece of myself into a post. Which, granted, is often. I don’t want to say the wrong thing and make them feel worse.

Libra: That sounds exhausting.

Mom: Maybe that’s why I can only engage with a couple messages like this in a day.

Libra: Well, you’ve sent it now. Why are you still so tense?

Mom: Oh, that’s normal. I’ll probably be tense until the person I wrote to responds with a reply or a fave or something. Some positive signal so I know my message helped a little.

Libra: I feel like you’re being too hard on yourself. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone react negatively to one of your messages.

Mom: Sure, but they wouldn’t, would they? Everyone we interact with here is really polite and I don’t think they’d react negatively unless I was *really* out of line. The only indication that I might have said the wrong thing would be no reaction at all.

Libra: No reaction could also mean the recipient wasn’t feeling it that day, or didn’t see your message…

Mom (interrupting): …or just hasn’t gotten to it yet. I know; it’s an asynchronous platform and nobody owes me a rapid response. I know all of this intellectually. It doesn’t matter. I still feel worried and tense.

 (Libra sits silently for about a minute.)

Libra: Is this really what I become?

Mom: Not what you expected?

Libra: I guess not. I don’t think I dealt with this… What could have happened to us that we got so sensitive?

Mom (smirking): You have it backwards, Daphne. This is rejection sensitivity. You have it too, you just have it buried.

Libra: What do you mean?

Mom: I mean you hid this feeling. Bloom had a mask for it, remember? I had her let that mask go.

Libra: Oh… Oh. I used that mask a lot, didn’t I?

Mom: We all did, until that mask started to feel wrong. And now we have all sorts of emotional sensitivity and empathy. When we resonate with someone else’s joy or euphoria it feels *so* good, and when we resonate with someone else’s pain it hurts.

Libra (alarmed): We can’t just ignore people that are hurting though!

Mom: Of course not — feeling someone’s pain sometimes means understanding why they hurt, which lets us offer effective comfort. Sometimes it means we can offer unique insight. But there’s always a risk that we’ve said something wrong or jumped to an offensive or triggering conclusion.

Libra: And I just didn’t worry about those things. I didn’t have a sense for them.

Mom: Those senses were seriously muted. And sure, I’ve refined them since. But you had them.

(The two sit in silence for a bit.)

Libra: Do you think I can learn to use them like you?

Mom: That’s a strange question… You’re a part of me, so you should already be able to do that. And yet…

Libra: What is it?

Mom: I don’t know. This feels important, like… Maybe this is the mental block that’s holding your older sister back. Maybe if we focus on unpacking our relationships to other people we can move past it.

Libra (excited): Oh! That’s great insight… I’ll tell my sisters! If that’s okay?

Mom (smiling): Of course, dearest.

(Libra leaps up and runs off. Just then the computer makes a tiny bloop noise and I turn to investigate. One click later, I see a star awarded to my comment and I relax visibly in my seat.)