The online magazine-website Bustle has a regular feature they call ‘28’ (link here) in which they profile an actress, author, or other famous woman about the year they were twenty-eight years old. Most of the stories are of women struggling to get up and going in life and touching, and sometimes funny. But when I read those pieces and think of when I was twenty-eight… well, if Bustle ever comes to me and asks me about the year I was twenty-eight they’d probably wouldn’t want me to participate after reading this. Yes, this is my way of saying “I had a very different experience than most people did at this age.” No regrets on my part, but just a statement that twenty-eight is an age and a year I don’t ever want to repeat.
Where was I at and what was I doing at that time?
I turned twenty-eight in May 2002. I was still living at home and was watching my mother slowly and painfully dying of cancer. In the summer of 2002, my grandmother died, I got fired from my first full-time call-center job (no big loss there), and my mom blew an ulcer that caused her to puke a sink full of blood one morning while I held her up and kept my shit together. I was on a dead-run most days and I felt like such a stone-cold bitch because I was so damn good at that point in time in keeping my mental and emotional shit-storms all to myself.
A few days before my mom died, my dad collapsed due to physical exhaustion (he was really good at running himself down like that) so I had to move my mom into my bedroom and sleep in a chair. The next day, I had to bring in the hospice nurse to get that started for my mom and I was able to do that because my mom and dad had set things up to where I could take over if I had to. When the nurse came over, my dad was in bed due to exhaustion, people were coming over to visit because my sister had just had a baby, and I was conducting a three-ring circus. When I walked the nurse out to her car, she asked me if I was alright. I told her I was and that I’d been preparing for this for a long time.
In reality, I never felt more alone than I did back then. I felt like everyone other than my mother and father damn near hated me for the way I was at that time. Behind my back at that time, and in the years after, I’d heard that I was a stone-cold unemotional bitch. Now I will freely admit I put up huge walls around myself and probably would have said ‘no’ to anyone who offered me comfort in any way. I would have said ‘no’ because I felt like if I lowered those walls I would have shattered into a million pieces and never been able to put them back together. And if that had happened, I would have been useless. Instead, I felt like the last person left standing.
And I’m not going to apologize for the painful words and images here, or if I come off as angry and bitter. I’m nowhere near as angry and bitter as I was for so many years as most of it was buried very deeply inside of me. Once I took those feelings out and worked through them, the pain of those feelings has eased to where I have begun to heal. I’ve healed because I know I did the best I could with what little I had to work with at that time. And that deep down, I’m not a stone-cold unemotional bitch.
What would I say now to my twenty-eight-year-old self?
I would tell her she’s doing the best she can, and not to apologize in the future, or if she does, to take those apologies back. I would tell her she’s not a stone-cold unemotional bitch. I would tell her she won’t shatter into a million pieces but in the future she’ll learn how to work through the pain and grief she’s going through and heal from it.
At the end of my twenty-eighth year on planet Earth, I was getting ready to move out into my own little apartment and I had started my second full-time call-center gig. But I also knew I had a long road ahead of me with my dad and that’s a story for another time and place. In the years since, I’ve had some high moments, and a time when I became a stone-cold bitch and was again, the last one left standing when my dad died.
One week from today, I will begin my forty-ninth journey around the sun (yes, it’s my birthday next Monday) and I look forward to it because I know I’m on the road to the life I want for myself. It’s been a roller-coaster ride over the last twenty years but well worth it. Now I’m beginning to see I don’t have to let the mines go off as I walk through my emotional fields. Instead, like I said yesterday, I can see the mines, defuse them, and build them into something better. In the past, a part of me wished I knew then what I know now. But then I remember something my crusty old bear-dad used to say, “Sometimes it’s hard to remember this is a learning experience when you’re going through the shit.”
In the end, we learn by doing. And in learning and doing, sometimes we can find healing. I know I have, and this is why I write about it now.
One thought on “Breaking Radio Silence – Twenty-Eight”
We must go on or else be left behind. As a young kid once I left the family cocoon I saw life as a battle. It’s sadly a battle in which we all pass away. But well done for getting back on track. ✍️