“You know, your father and I have agreed to work on our differences. But each time you do something like this, he gets fed up with trying.” My mother is referring to our most recent disagreement, which she blames entirely on me.
And with that one remark, 20 years fade away, and I am 11 again.
I am feeling the worst kind of loneliness and exclusion, because:
I am being told that this is her home, not mine, and therefore, I have to be “polite” to her. I am being told that my parents are at odds — and have been, for the past 3 years (and so too for the next 20 years, but I didn’t know it then) — because of my interference. I am being told that they are a unit, and their relationship is more important than my relationship with either parent.
It is damaging, for a child to feel relegated to the sidelines on a parent’s whim, looking in on what is supposed to be a normal, well-adjusted family. I used to think it was preferable to have no family at all. At least then, I wouldn’t have fleeting glimpses of what I was missing, and wishing with all my heart, to be included in the fold.
10 years of therapy later and I am in a position to write this, not to relive the hurt of the past, but to solidify a lesson for the future.
My mother cannot love me the way I need, because she’s never been taught how, and perhaps you can say — even along the way, she’s never taught herself how. She has never learnt to love inclusively, and she never will, because she comes from a place of deep lack, or gripping insecurity, a place that she’s never confronted head on. She is unable to see past her own sadness, hurt, unhappiness, anger — anything she’s feeling strongly at that point — through to someone else, and feel the love she’s supposed to have for that individual.
Who’s fault is this? I wish I could say hers, but I know now life is never as straightforward as we wish it to be; and we are too human to ever expect more from each other.
My mother may not have taught me how to love, but she’s certainly taught me how to forgive.
Because you know, when you can’t change someone, all that’s really left to do is to forgive. And I won’t lie, there are days where I am scraping the bottom of that barrel of compassion; frantically pawing through the sediment with hands that are raw and bleeding.
Hours after those words fell like arrows, I stood there looking out into the rain, its comforting scent filling my nostrils, and I thought:
When I breathe my last, I want to know I did everything I could to build a loving, inclusive relationship — against my humanity, against all my flaws, against my insecurities and fears, emotions, and scars; that I had helped to build a family where love was bountiful and unconditional, regardless of the pain and sorrow that came with it; that I put others first, and myself aside, for the sake of peace.
You know, I have failed many times in my 31 years, and I will continue to fail — myself, and those around me.
But I can only hope that if I keep fighting that darkened part of me — the one that whispers terrible things when I am at my weakest, and makes the light feel less than it is — I may yet succeed. That, and quite possibly a healthy dose of self awareness, faith, and God’s grace.
Wish me luck, because 2017 is the year I leap.