For the longest time, I used to look back at my childhood and adolescent years and think that was just the way things were back then. It’s taken me these past seven years to realize that I normalized a lot of crazy-ass shit because I didn’t have any experience that showed me otherwise. In these last few years, I’ve learned how to peel back layers of silence, and normalization to the truth of what my experiences were and why they happened. It’s not easy sharing these experiences with myself or in writing here because there might be an asshole or two who will refuse to see my truth and not realize their take will be different than mine.
An example of this is when I was around twelve years old. Right now over on Reddit a lady is getting roasted for calling her twelve-year-old daughter clingy and whiny for not wanting to help take care of her newborn sibling. This lady is getting roasted because it sounds like she’s wanting to place too much responsibility on her daughter and not letting her daughter have any kind of life for herself.
I was twelve when my sister was born and yes, I took care of her a lot. At that time, I just felt like it was just expected of me and just part of the responsibilities I had in life. Looking back, it was so more than that. My sister was born at a very turbulent time in my parents’ marriage. My mother was working full-time and the principal wage-earner as my dad was pursuing his pipe dreams and raging nightly at my mother for not ‘supporting’ him. Looking back, I’m amazed my mother didn’t crack up and just say ‘fuck it all’. Maybe my helping her out as much as I did, helped her get through that time. I think I sensed she needed whatever help I could give to her because I sure as hell didn’t have the guts to call my father out on his raging bullshit. My mother was the most mature, and self-less person I’ve ever known in my life so I didn’t take on the responsibilities I did because of ‘parentification’ (when a child becomes the parent because a parent is immature and selfish). She did her best to be a parent to me by simply not heaping any shame or guilt onto me for having my own thoughts and feelings, and for pursuing the things I did, which were mostly quiet things like reading and writing.
My mother wasn’t perfect and she didn’t want to be put on a pedestal only to be knocked off. For the most part, I think she just wanted to be left alone and not have to deal with any drama or bullshit. And like me, I’m sure she was told to her face and behind her back that she was cold and unemotional. No, she was closed off like I was because she was raised to be ashamed and guilty for having her own thoughts and feelings that weren’t dictated by her parents or the Catholic Church or any other bullshit authority. Like me, she was also closed off because she’d been betrayed and hurt by people when she did try to open up. We were close without sharing too much with each other though in the last years of her life, she had begun to unpack her past. I wish she’d gotten the years to unpack it completely and heal from it like I have. But by sharing my experiences along with hers and with honesty and nuance I have found healing like she didn’t.
If you’re reading this and you’re feeling uncomfortable or getting pissed off at me and would just love it if I didn’t talk about things they way I do, ask yourself why. Peel back the layers and dig deep if you choose to. It’s not easy and it’s not that the truth will set you free. I believe we don’t have to go through life leaving shit unpacked and dealt with when it’s holding us back.
This morning I wrote the dedication to ‘Breaking Radio Silence’:
To My Mother,
Who wanted to raise me differently than she had been raised, and who succeeded more than she could ever know.
I wish you could have had the years I’ve had to heal but I will continue to break my silence not just for myself, but for you and others like you, those of us who want to live without shame and guilt, and with all the love we can find in ourselves.
I would love to tell my mother she didn’t need to feel shame and guilt over doing the best she could what she had to work with, and especially the times when she had nothing but shit to work with. I believe shame and guilt are heaped onto people when they haven’t done anything to warrant that by people who want to keep the truth buried, and who are afraid of being called out on their shit. Honesty is the rejection of shame and guilt and the way to finding love.
In the last seven years, I’ve unpacked and dealt with my shit. And I’ve felt like I’ve been having a conversation with my mother through time and space. I feel like she has been supporting me through this journey of recovery so it does feel like a tribute to her and a way for her to recover, too.
My mother wasn’t one to say ‘I love you’ very often and sadly, neither am I. But the love is there, fiercely protected and guarded, and in the process of being set free.