Hot milk goodness #2

deborah-levy

Today’s instalment from Hot Milk by Deborah Levy concerns Sofia and her mother, Rose, driving to a local market. They have come to the baked out, rocky coast of Spain to consult the famous doctor/quack, Dr Gómez, about Rose’s paralysis of the feet. In characteristically perverse style, Rose is suddenly able to drive a car, whereas 25-year-old Sofia is revealed to have failed her driving test four times.

Feet and hands are especially important in the symbolic history of women, and books like Women Who Run With the Wolves contain many of the stories such as “The Red Shoes” and “The Handless Maiden”, each of them spelling out the ubiquity and consequences of women’s learned helplessness.

In my own life, I think of the thing I was forbidden to do as a child and teenager, and that was to express anger. My mother would shut it down before the words “How dare you?” were out of her mouth. Looking back now I can see she was terrified of her own rage being awakened. Instead it expressed itself in migraine headaches and the nightly near-severing of her fingers on the newly sharpened knife over the detested task of the evening meal.

“I looked down at my mother’s foot on the brake. Her toes moved off and then landed on it with delicacy and confidence. ‘I can imagine you walking the entire length of the beach,’ I said.

In reply she started to sing the words to a hymn: ‘And did those feet in ancient time/ Walk upon England’s mountains green.’

If only. My mother’s feet are mostly on strike, but I’m not sure what she is negotiating for or what the deal breaker would be. Her feet are an English size nine. Her jaw is large. Our ancestors developed a protruding jaw because they were constantly fighting. Grievance is very strenuous. My mother needs her jaw to see off anyone who will separate her from her stash of resentment.”

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Image: Deborah Levy

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9 thoughts on “Hot milk goodness #2

  1. Thank you for reminding me of “The Red Shoes” and “The Handless Maiden”. These two stories have been meaningful to me for many years and I’ve thought about them a lot. I had not made the connection when I was reading “Hot Milk” and it sheds light on the novel.

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  2. I was never comfortable with anger. My mother neither. It was as if that emotion was not available to us. We were strangers. We still are. I remember my dad being in a drunken rage when I was maybe three years old. He killed himself when I was four. I have carried this irrational, but powerful, belief that anger always results in tragic consequences, so it’s best to keep a tight lid on it. No wonder I have migraines! Interesting how I can know something on an intellectual, rational level, yet my body doesn’t believe it. :|

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    • You’re special, Lorna, such kindness and courage. I’m sorry your dad killed himself. How frightening it must have been for you as a little girl and how frightening anger must have seemed. And you’re right about the body. It records and expresses a truth that other means do not. I guess that’s why the Buddhists rely on the breath or the bodily sensations as the access to reality.

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      • Yes, awareness training has been helpful, but anger still scares me. When my boyfriend of 6 years dumped me (I was in my early 20s and I thought he was THE one), I was a close as I ever came to being enraged. I took his picture off my wall and really wanted to throw it at something just to see it break (like he broke my heart—envision every melodramatic breakup scene in B-rated movies). I couldn’t do it! I thought of having to clean up the glass shards and wasting a perfectly good frame! Lame, huh? :|

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      • Maybe one day you’ll allow yourself to express anger and discover new levels of peace and freedom, or maybe you don’t need this anyway. I’m taking on allowing my pet dog called Anger out for a walk around the park a little more often. May God bless you and Phil and your family, Lorna. Merry Christmas xx

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