When I was two years old, I spat at my grandmother. We were driving about the town of Hamilton, me—locked in my cage of child restraints, her a picture of warmth with her golden skin and Elizabeth Arden's Red Door seeping from her pores—when she turned to me and, as all good grandmas do, began provoking me.
She patronised me with pokes and taunted me with high pitched "Gemmy-Poos" and that's when I did it. It was nothing too dramatic; I just leant over and got the job done. Efficiently, ruthlessly, I spat.
I've grown up with this story as a sort of theme tune for my life. A haphazard ensemble of what I would come to be known for … outrageous tenacity and darn right ferociousness. "Don't piss her off or she'll spit on you". And although, this image sometimes serves me, I have come to loathe it like the inevitable rashes I get every summer.
I am deeply disappointed by my incompatibility with despondency … I wish that I didn't care about how I was perceived in the world and just lived as bravely and truthfully as I could. I wish that I didn't need you to like me or for you to like this article, to think I was clever, soft, warm. I wish that after every hard conversation, I can't help but have - I didn't take to the magnifying glass to over analyse the ripples caused by my spit, by the places where I got it wrong.
I find it difficult to live in this world. I used to wishfully whisper with conviction for "the joy of heaven," not in a way that ushered in death but in a way that sanded away the sharpness of life and the heaviness of feeling misunderstood.
You see, I never meant to spit.
Although a grotesque and disrespectful thing to do, when a camel feels that deep seated fear of vulnerability, it brings forth the contents of its stomach and propels it outwards as a very clear signal to back off. Fear is never flattering.
I think, in that moment, as an unrefined, defiant child, my spit was symbolic of feeling dis-empowered and sesame seed small and I've never been able to come back from it. I wish I could say that these days I am learning to take the sesame seed, grind that sucker up and make tahini but in actuality, all I have learnt is how to dress the spit up as a delicacy.
There are these themes that seem to run through our lives like entrenched rivers, swelling with every rainy season, they are sometimes gentle flowing and other times fiercely churning. For me, I will always have to watch my mouth, watch for venom on my lips and bullets made of lead firing around my brain.
It is time that I made friends with the self-inflated, narcissist within and offered her a seat. "Take a load off Narci, I have it from here". I have made some mistakes in my life, like the time that I broke my sister's china doll to the time that I completely missed who she was for five years. I have oozed my toxins all over countless bystanders partaking in factory farmed meat and spoken out of turn.
But we as human beings are always more than the mistakes that we make, we are countless stories of rejection and dis-empowerment, of feeling less than him but more than her, we are the beat up and broken. But we're also the resilient and the strong, the ones who showed up even when things got messy, we are the ones who cared to speak, even if we got it wrong.
Nothing is ever two-dimensional; there are layers upon layers upon layers of complexities that make up our lives and our stories. Every time we get scared, we don't need the bile in our stomachs to guard us, we need to drop our weapons and be seen.
This year has taught me many things, not all of them well received, but I have learnt that I have to return Alice and her humps to her rightful owner and front up to face the truth of my character. I have also learnt that none of us are supposed to have it all together and it is okay if my inner self is still kind of small and malnourished—I would be too if I was dining on watered down DNA every day.
Growth begins when we go against the behavioural patterns of our past and try something new. It begins when we fight the urge to retaliate and instead wipe our enemies spit from our eyes, seeing them clearly as a human who has bruises too. It starts with swallowing our fear and realising all along that Alice … is a horse, of course.
First published August 12, 2014
Gemma Taylor despite constant scorn and painful jokes is proudly from the Waikato; although she is presently living in Auckland with her fingers in many pies. She is inspired by truth, creativity and connection. Gemma writes for buoyancy and hopes to one day live wholly by the ideas that she writes of.
Gemma Taylor's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/gemma-taylor.html