I was saying things about academia, how I dislike it because it requires you to renounce the things you love most about it. That is about working at institutions that work against your programs, of course, and I won’t say this is not a real problem, and that it is not highly irritating. But “renouncing the things you love most” means something more to me, I realized as I heard myself speak.
“I don’t have the money to keep you.” That was what my mother always said, and she kept saying it even though she had the money. We were to be cast out, it was a daily danger, and she was to commit suicide, and that was a daily danger as well. Again and again I prepared myself for these losses and although they did not actually take place, the psychic one kept being repeated. Every day we were told, every day we renounced and steeled ourselves; every day we knew we would be abandoned, and love was withdrawn.
I always appreciated and felt affection for my mother, but I do not remember loving her. One could not love her, she was too coercive, cruel, weak and vindictive too often, and she might commit suicide any day. She was also a potential role model, and that was risky. If I got too close, I feared, I could become death-oriented like her, and I did not want this.
Just now I was thinking irritably about how foolish it is to accuse people of insufficient love (“you don’t love the university enough, if you did, you would put up with this!”) when they have in fact gone so far as to renounce what they most love to prove this love — renounced their own work and their better judgment to be polite to fragile power. I realized suddenly what this meant at another level: it means I must have loved my mother once. I don’t remember when I had to stop but it was very early on, and it must have been very painful because I have repeated it a few times, to try to get over it and also to try to see it; this also explains the reactions I have when I am asked to sacrifice or renounce.
People really should not have children to amuse themselves or to claim an identity. They should also not threaten suicide around their children. With the suicide threats, and also the accusations having to do with our failure to fill an emptiness, I remember renouncing love again and again. I remember the toy I held in my hand one time, watching my mother sail away from me as it were, and saying, “Good-bye, my honey. Good-bye, my honey.”
I can see it now. It must have been devastating, and I know there were many such scenes.