- Writing Exercise: write about something you never talk about AND 2008 Life Exercise: deal with something you've always avoided-
When I was of grade school age, I used to have nights where I locked myself in my room, holding either my family cat Lassie or my stuffed toy Babar close to my chest, and sit atop my bed either in a silence or in long sobs between breaths that stayed equally as close to me as the objects I would have been holding. Sometimes my sister would be there alongside me, sometimes it was just me.
Back then I never told anyone that my parents yelled a lot. I told my friends about a reoccurring nightmare I used to have where I was a bride to be, driving a vehicle in the rain in my wedding dress, while the revolting voice of my groom yelled at me from the windshield wipers as they squeeked back and forth. It never made any concrete sense, the way that dreams never make any real sense. But later in the dream I would find myself sitting down at the kitchen table with all five of my family members seated around near to me. In front of us were disgusting amounts of beef piled in stacks on the table. Everyone was yelling. The words never made sense, but it was tense , it was sickening, and it was scary. This dream stopped happening around the age of ten, but I doubt I'll ever be able to forget it, not that it haunts me or anything. I just kept the dream alive by telling people I knew about it. My friends never completely understood how or why it was a nightmare, and I never completely understood why it was important enough to tell other people.All I knew is that it existed, and it was frightening. It was a fear too big for me to understand.
When I got older I'd always defend my parents and family dynamics from the scrutiny of my older siblings. Everything was fine if I saw it as fine, and if we stir the pot it will get worse. I learned this, too. At about age eight I had tried to fix things by yelling back. I told my parents that they should shutup because yelling wouldn't make anything better. But, I was told it was none of my business. I stayed out of it.
I stayed out of it later, too. I liked hanging out with my Dad when Mom was not around. We went on hikes, we watched movies, we listened to music, and I learned lots about pop culture and rock. I also learned what .5% alcoholic beer was, and for whatever reason, I liked to point this out to my friends when I was a kid. "My Dad doesn't drink". Mom on the other hand, was always angry at me. She made me do chores and yelled at me when I didn't. She forced me to get involved in things I wanted nothing to do with.She embarrassed me when she tried to be cool or my friend. Mom was never my friend. She pushed me to be things that I always ended up feeling stuck being ....a tap dancer, a classical guitarist, a sailor. Mom never let me relax. I couldn't let Mom down without feeling shamed. Mom had so many expectations.
In Junior highschool my dad began working in different cities. He'd come home on weekends and that's all I'd ever see of him. I was never around at that time anyway. I spent all my time at the barn with the horses. It was a haven there. I could escape school pressure, I could escape my family, and all the while I could be doing exactly what I had always been wanting to do in life since I was about 5 years old: Ride Horses. Of course, this added some further complication to my life. I didn't know my parents at all. I avoided being at home. Mom would be angry and sad that I was never home. Tensions raised in my family and I was never there to want to know what was going on or find out what was going on. I knew one of my sisters hated me for some reason,the other two didn't seem to have the time for me, and if I ever made it home for dinner fights would have always been on the menu.
Even when hanging out with my friends it was never at home. Hang outs at my house ended when at one point my friends and I were watching a movie and the phone rang and I didn't pick it up. My Dad stormed in the room , yelling , and called me a fucking moron. It scared the shit out of me at the time, but it isn't a memory that ever surfaced much afterward. I figured he was drunk, so it was okay. He didn't really mean it. He was drunk.
About four years ago, my Father retired from working his job in a different city. After he had been gone so long I didn't feel like I had much to say to him. He gave me rides to the barn. That's all the time I gave him, and it was all the time he gave me. He watched TV a lot and said offensive things the rest of the time. I noticed he didn't respect my Mom much, and she didn't respect herself much. I didn't respect either of them much, but I began feeling sorry for Mom. I tried to make her happy, but she was still always stressed out and I didn't have anything real to say to her. I virtually lacked a relationship with either of my parents.
And one night the absence of feelings for my Father turned to something near hatred when I witnessed him calling my sister a bitch. Straight-up verbal abuse like this was never common in my house, and so it left me scared and frightened when it did happen.
I talked about it with my sister. We walked to the watertower and I think maybe we both cried. I could see for the first time what was so wrong with my family. Those Nightmares were finally beginning to make some sense.
I sometimes tell people I don't have secrets. Usually, I don't think I ever do. Children of alcoholics learn to carry shame,emotion, and knowledge much differently than other kids. Everything always comes down to feeling like my fault, and it's not worth talking about because that would make people feel worse. I would make people feel worse. Sure, insight on situations is present, but you don't learn it until it is absolutely unavoidable.
I came home from University in 2008. I was feeling heartbroken, I was lonely, I felt like a failure (to Mom and myself) because I had wussed out on treeplanting and ended up back in Comox. The last thing I needed was more loneliness out in a forest. I couldn't make friends, I had done well at University but didn't feel like any of the knowledge I had acquired would stay with me. And everything I was happy to be home for just made me feel ashamed. I was happy to ride again, I was happy to see Mom, I was happy to no longer have to be courageous and strong. I could live in Comox. It could be easy.
Mom and I drove from Prince George to Comox in one day. I was glad to see Mom. We could talk. Things were seeming like maybe they would be lovely.
At home I ignored Dad (which at this point in my life was a pretty usual thing), I kept my resent quiet, and we kept to ourselves anyway. It seemed like Mom and him got along better than usual too. They went places and did things together. I didn't notice him drinking much. It remained at a pretty level status quo and that was good enough for me.
In the spring I broke my hand and began having to make several weekly trips to Campbell River with my mom that involved lots of waiting around in cars and in doctor's offices. We spent a lot of time together and it reminded me of when I was a younger teenager and we'd drive to and from victoria or campbell river to guitar lessons.
During this time I noticed my Dad had started drinking more again, and Mom would fight with him more again. I started to hide more in my room again.
One day over lunch Mom said she was worried about Dad "he is acting pretty depressed". The subject made me fearful of facing mom about my feelings toward Dad "Maybe he should just get a hobby or a job" I said. I knew it was a stupid thing to say. I just didn't know what else to say.
One morning after a trip back from Nanaimo that mom and I had been on because my Dad had hurt his back and couldn't come, Mom noticed my hand (that had a pin sticking out of it because of surgery) looked very infected. Instead of first going home we went to the walk in clinic and then the hospital to get me some very strong antibotics.
What we came home to however , was much worse.
"Call Tom, I can't deal with this" Mom told me. I had to call my uncle to get him to come over and convince my Father that he was not sober enough to drive away. Of course, this was after much fighting had gone one. A fight , unlike others, where I had heard every detail of history between my parents. Dad's drinking, how things weren't working out, etc etc. The same old cliches you always hear about people in shitty relationships. I called Tom, and then I hid in my room. I didn't even see Tom. I didn't want to. Dad stayed at home that night and mom forced him to apologize to me the next morning. He barely said anything, and as usual, Mom apologized for him. I could finally see that's what she had always been doing all of my life.
A few weeks later I got up for work, remembering it was Father's day, and I saw my Dad on the computer at 530 in the morning. Not wanting to have much conversation I didn't ask why he was up so early and instead said a quick "happy father's day" before I left for work, and he laughed and said "thanks".
That day he left town and I haven't seen him since.
Of course, this story has not ended there.
You may now be wondering "Holy shit, Dee, you shouldn't write this so publicly." or perhaps, as my insecurities are now telling me , "Holy shit , Dee. This is really none of my business and really long and self-indulgent".
While maybe the latter is true, I don't think the former is. This was the reality of 2008 for me. Dealing with all of this bullshit and the aftermath of it which is still affecting me (and no doubt will continue affecting me for a long long fucking time). I don't know what is to come in 2009, or ever, but I made a resolution to myself which is to not carry so much shame and not be so silent.
There is so much that we need to talk about that gets labeled as taboo or too personal. Topics that are deemed inappropriate for public venues. And it's how communities fall apart.
Now, I know oscillations isn't exactly a community, but in some ways it is. There are a community of people who read this. There are a few of my friends who read everything I write on here, and it's usually just weird poetry. Or things that kind of avoid stating outright what they are...which of course is fine, I guess that's the point of poetry. It's subtely direct. It finds artistic ways of expressing topics. Well, I can't say I've been feeling very artistic this year, and it's shown by my lack of writing poetic things anymore, and I've been thinking a lot about escapism and how this blog is one of the ways in which I escape. Now, I think it's really constructive escapism and I'm glad to have it, but it just hasn't been good enough for me this year. Why? Because life actually really happened. I could not find euphemisms in poetry to express everything I've been feeling. It's been hard to talk to my friends or sisters about. It's been hard to talk to myself about.
So yeah, there . There it is. There , written down for a few people (some strangers) to publicly see is my 2008 oddyssey. And I guess now that it is in 2009, I can only be hopeful that better events will take place.
My Mom successfully had her brain surgery, my dad is currently out my life, I am in montreal, and I am trying to live better and better, and share more and more of myself.
I wish for everyone to try and do the same.
Thanks for giving a shit, and have a wonderfully honest, happy new year.
"May we always carry our histories with us, but never let them bury us."
Wear your heart on your fuckin' sleeve.