Bad Angel

For this post, I will be bastardizing some excerpts from The First Elegy of The Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke (whose work I deeply admire). I mean no disrespect, but it may still be considered disrespectful to use these pieces outside their original intention. Sorry, Bro.

Allow me to paint a picture for you.

I am sitting on the steps in the sanctuary of my childhood church, ca. 1985/86. It’s Christmas time, and I am an angel in the nativity play. I am chubby-cheeked and sassy, and I am wearing a tinsel halo that clashes with my blonde hair. Over my Sunday best, I have on an itchy white robe with glittered wings made of poster board tied on me with a gold rope. They feel big enough that I could fly away — which I think I’d certainly like to. I am wearing knee-high white socks and my very favorite footwear — ballet slippers. Next to me is a ramshackle manger overflowing with straw, and a smelly old baby doll from the smelly old baby nursery to represent the baby Jesus.

My parents are watching from the pews just a row or two from the front and my dad is armed with a camera, desperately trying to get a photo of me behaving like the angel he sees before him. He has even mouthed the words “get up” and motioned as much with his hands. His face turns red and angry as I fold my arms, look him dead in the eye, and shake my head no. I sit on the steps refusing to sing (rather pleased with myself, I might add), pointing my toes, admiring the way they look and feel in the slippers, and there isn’t a damned thing my father can do about it.

This is not an amazing story, but it is a true one.

And it demonstrates something important for me. In the times where I think I have no will at all, it’s this adorable haloed creature that is probably running the show, giving me the same little “fuck you” she gave my dad during the nativity play (and many more times after that). She acts often to her/my/our detriment, and she defies even as my conscious self aches for some different way of being.

Yep, I have plenty of will and it’s potent, but a five-year-old runs the show. She has been far more effective than I ever have been at asserting herself, and yet, she never quite gets what she actually wants. She defies just to do it, just because she can. In a sense, it has turned into an “any attention is good attention” situation.

It’s perhaps a little strange to see her as an entity separate from myself since she is me, but acknowledgement can grant many blessings, and I needed this separation to become conscious of her existence in the first place. Communicating can be a little challenging though, because she communicates very differently than I do now. She is me before I had enough language to adequately express myself. She doesn’t actually mean to be naughty. She means to assert who she is, to tell me what’s wrong. She’s gripping at whatever her little hands are able to, even if those things are ultimately destructive to her. It is my job to course correct. It is my job to give her voice.

So I am here, now–with this little cutie on my hip, doing my best to listen to and understand her, to tell her no when no needs telling (when I have the wherewithal to recognize her influence). I explain to her why it’s necessary, and I do a bit of bargaining sometimes too. When I do it like this, it’s not a punishment or a deprivation. She is learning that there are far greater rewards in store.

Thanks so much for spending a bit of your day with me! In Gratitude and Love,

Kali Adriantje & the Bad Angel