We all have horror stories, tales of woe and sorrow and alongside each, like the aforementioned movies and books, we have happy memories and mementos to salve the sting. This is a fact of life that I am only now beginning to recognise. Sparing you all the sad back story I live with and care for my Mother, my Father passed away almost 30 years ago and so it became just us two. As with all loses, it affects us all differently. As a child I swallowed my grief, trying to be the brave little soldier I thought everyone expected me to be. As an adult I swallow Chardonnay by the bottle to numb the sadness that my child self never did cry a river of tears or scream the house down and instead bottled it all up inside herself. If I had a time machine, I would go back and shake that girl and tell her to feel... to forget about the reaction of other people and to just do what felt right at the time. I'm fairly certain I wouldn't have gone overboard and done anything crazy like fire-starting or bloodletting. I think I probably would have cried for a while and maybe shouted a bit. But I didn't. I smiled and kept it all inside and comforted everyone else.
30 years on and I am still doing the same thing. Oh I cry, but alone in bed with the covers over my head so no-one can hear and I don't shout, mostly in fear that even then, volume dialled up to 11, no-one will ever really hear me. Brief forays into therapy did nothing for me, although I know of many people who have reaped enormous benefits from it and I am grateful for them that they found answers. Maybe I was too young the first time around and too jaded the second. I've kept numerous journals that hold pages of my innermost feelings for about 2 days until I get wrist sprain. Re-reads of these diaries make me yearn even more for that damn time machine. A previous blog started well and now lays dormant, nuggets of honesty drifting around in the webasphere for no-one of sound mind to read. For someone who delights in the written word, I have no devotion to writing about myself, probably because I have spent decades pretending to myself that everything is okay and by writing it down I am calling myself a liar.
And now, coming out of my self titled "Year of Drinking Dangerously" I have to concede that that is exactly what I am. I have lied to myself for most of my adult life. Shit isn't fine and I am not okay. I'm angry and I'm hopeless and I'm defeated. Alcohol may have numbed me and almost bankrupted me back there for a while but even with wine fog I knew things weren't great. I am still that devastated little girl bottling up her screams only now I know I'm doing it for the wrong reasons. Back then I wanted to be seen as strong but now, now I just want an easy life. I dread the typical Monday morning question of "How was your weekend?" because I know the questioner doesn't want to hear that I spent it waiting on my mother and being a household drudge, that I did laundry and watched Hallmark movies that made me cry and wish I lived in Vancouver and had a name that ended with an i. No-one wants to hear about podiatry and bedbaths and batch cooking. So I just shrug and say that it was good and swiftly turn the subject 180°. I hear their tales of wild parties and spontaneity and I smile and laugh and suppress the bile of jealously that crawls up my throat. Again, giving the people what I think they want.
For years I have just assumed that I know best, that no-one wants to hear about my problems and so sparing myself the hell that would be actually having to talk about them. And yes, I am a liar because I told you that there was nothing dark and scary in my past when frankly there is. I think it might be me. Well I used to think it was me but now I consider it to be more of a collective effort, all those experiences and conversations have swirled around me like Elsa's ice vortex and created the me I am today. Although I think Philip Larkin said it better in "This Be The Verse":-
"They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself."
Not that I lay the blame at my parent's door. Not all of it. My dad was amazing and even now, my happiest childhood memories revolve around him. Lots of laughing and silliness, hugs and ice cream and the best bedtime stories in the world. every silly voice imaginable. It was my dad who led me down the path to writing, he allowed me to be silly and tended my creative streak with love and care . My mother also has her space in my head but our relationship is far trickier to explain. After 10 plus years looking after her in one way or another it's difficult to remember her as being anything other than difficult. But she was a fun and bubbly character once, stern but fair and it was she who instilled in me to never give up and never let anyone think they are better than you just as long as you don't think you are better than them which is still really fucking great advice. She was loud and smart and witty and as a teenager I veered between being in awe of her balls to the wall nature and mortified by it. She gave me a ridiculous amount of freedom back then, encouraged me to date and travel and only drew the line at body piercing and tattoos (Sorry Mum!) She was actually really cool and I'd be remiss if I didn't say that during my late teen years she was my best friend however naff that sounds.
So it's funny that now I'm in my late 30s she is the very bane of my existence. All the things she once encouraged me to do are now on the restricted list. I'm either too old, too fat or too set in my ways. I've wasted the life she gave me by not doing more, by not being better yet each time opportunities knocked on my door, and they did, it was always she who found the excuse for me not to take them. Job offers that involved travel abroad were deemed unthinkable as who would look after her. Others that involved train travel were considered unsafe because, you know, terrorists. Potential relationships where almost always serial killers or gay because why would that good looking man want to go out with a troll like me? The list goes on and on and as I read this back, I want to blame her but I find I can't. Not really. For years I have bitten down more responses than I can number, just because I don't want to start the inevitable argument that follows whenever I disagree with her. The argument then involves tears (mine) and panic attacks (hers) and ultimately becomes 2 days where I tip toe around her feeling equal parts guilty and homicidal. And then it passes and we go back into normal mode where I'm just angry, helpless and defeated. And repeat ad nauseum for an eternity.
I should have spoken out years ago, really put my foot down and set the boundaries but I didn't, trepidatious of upsetting my mother and stupidly blinkered into thinking things would get better. Then illness entered the picture and I didn't say anything because I felt bad for her and didn't want to make things worse. And then suddenly, 10 years have gone by and I'm muttering swear words under my breath and mainlining Shiraz like water in an attempt to maintain my composure when what I really want to do is cry and scream until I'm blue in the face. Which wouldn't help as she is going deaf anyway. And so I say nothing, giving in to her increasingly paranoid and ridiculous demands and hating myself for being a doormat.
Occasionally I rebel and answer back. She doesn't know I've been drunk for a year and while she nearly had a stroke when she saw the tattoo she still doesn't know about the piercings. But it's all just petty. I'm not winning this battle of wills and I doubt I ever can. She is not going to change and neither is the situation. I either have to suck it up or change the way I deal with things. I read a really thought provoking blog on Wordpress about narcissistic parents and how the effects can traumatise children and parts of it really hit home. Even as an adult, there are still things that she still does that are just not acceptable to me but it's up to me to bring it to a halt. Or a head. How does someone even start that conversation? All I know is that for things to improve I need to stop wishing for a time machine and express myself more, stop bottling it up and making nice so as not to offend anyone.
No-one cares because no-one knows and that friends, really is the sad dark truth of it.