Day 5. This isn’t going at all how I’d planned. But I didn’t plan, did I? Not really. There’s so much less sweetness and light and so much more finger-pointing and bile. But if I’m being honest — and I am, we’ve covered that — bile is what’s here.
I suppose I’m hoping that doesn’t matter. I suppose I’m hoping that there’s more to a parental bond than who’s right and who’s wrong and what happened or didn’t. Sure you’ve said as much but we both know that what you mean is that nothing in the past matters so long as I become an extension of you again: an obedient appendage, the dutiful child. Then all will be forgiven.
Anyway, let’s switch it up! Lemme tell you how my life is going!
So, in case you need to know, I’m 47 now and feeling pretty optimistic about what’s ahead. Sure, when you knew me, jobs were easy to come by for me, and easier to lose. You worried about my future but I’m there now, in my future, and it turned out just fine.
You met J. That one time at your house then again at the ceremony. He is everything and he is nothing: nothing you warned of, nothing you feared. He is gentle and kind, considerate and supportive. He is the very best kind of person and he makes me happy. I know you don’t believe me, that you think I’m lying. Again, refer to the honesty section herein.
It saddens me — always has — that you see the world through a lens of rage and distrust. I’m over the fact that you have never and will never believe a word I say but I may never get over that your experience of the world is coloured by this view. We get so little time.
Yes, horrible things happen and have likely happened to you. But we have lives to live and horrible events can define us in whichever ways we allow them to. Now I hear you in my mind taunting me, calling me PollyAnna (whoever that was). I know enough that she deserved no respect because she chose to view life as a series of happy events rather than dwell on the unhappy. So alright. I’ll take that. You won’t catch me doling out advice to ignore the negative parts of our lives in favour of a blissful outlook but I will happily advise that we can each look through and beyond those difficult events and tuck them safely into our satchels for carrying along the road of life.
Negative events shape us as much as the positive ones and that’s my point. We can’t dwell on either the good or the bad for they are equal. It may feel as if the bad events have a disproportionate echo, and they may if significant enough, but so do large good happenings. We happen to be wired to see one more than the other as recognizing and internalizing danger is a matter of instinct and survival. But haven’t we all heard stories of people surviving unimaginable circumstances to live beautiful lives?
Point is, I’m content. My choices help me to be that way. My good fortune plays a large part as does my implementation of what I’ve learned from the bad fortune that’s come my way. I’ve worked incredibly hard for this, in myriad ways. No one will take that from me. No one can.
I’m going to say this next bit because it applies to me and also because it likely applies to you.
What people with loving parents take as a given, others have to consciously acquire and maintain. I spend most waking hours planning, securing, preserving, improving, and tending all the things necessary to have and keep a safe and peaceful home. Even when I have what I need and want, the drive continues because it never feels as if security is here to stay. Like a squirrel perpetually stuffing away winter nuts, the drive continues to the exclusion of everything else. It’s been a lifelong impulse that can crowd out everything else. No bill goes unattended, no pantry shelf goes bare. It’s constant.
It’s also fear. Fear is the residue from rejection and abandonment, from the lack of a nurturing, stable bond or a safe and comforting home. This may be the well from which your immense fear springs.
Before you rail at the blame, I thank you. Because of you, I am a domestic goddess of the kind that would make Queen Steinem cringe. I am proud of my deep base of knowledge and my considerable skills in this arena. I am aware that many notable people have made careers from giving advice on homekeeping, home purchasing, home maintenance, personal finance, cuisine and the like. They are not me but I respect them for making good on what they know, despite our culture’s bipolar view.
I am fortunate enough to have lived half my statistical life and what I have to show for it is an enviably great home life filled with love and joy and acceptance and support — all the things that were mocked and derided in my youth as worthless time wasted by ignorant, lazy people. Just shows what “everyone” knows, huh?
You, Dearest Mother, have proven again and again that you will never take responsibility for your actions where I am concerned. You parented the best you knew how at the time and it was good — but it wasn’t good enough. That’s gotta sting. You kept me alive, that’s true. I am here now because of you, that’s also true. But I will not give you 100% credit for who I grew into as that takes away from the work I’ve done to get here, to stay alive.
I forgave your shortcomings long ago. What I will never forgive is the cruelty, the coldness, the lack of nurturing and support as you all but ignored your child’s emotional development. That was voluntary. That was a choice. You were exhausted and depleted, being a single mother in near poverty. You didn’t have to loathe your own child. That is not my fault and I will not accept it as such. Ever.
And now your life is coming to its end and I can’t help but recall the indifference with which you faced the news of my father’s own final breath. He was a mistake to you, as was I. So you easily stepped away from him and pushed me away from you. But I am still here. I survived to tell this tale so that others may ride this life raft I offer here to their own safety.