“Does anyone else hear banjo’s?” ~Me
Life has been weird.
A year and a half ago, my brother and I, along with our respective significant others, entered into a legal battle with our mother, who I haven’t spoken to in more than ten years. Our fight was over my niece, Lele; the child of my middle brother.
The case has now mostly concluded, if you’d like to read about that hillbilly drama, click here: The Legal System Sucks or, just scroll down to my prior post.
But if you’d like the Reader’s Digest version, the long and the short of it is this, my brother and I are now the proud parents of a seven year old.
Over the course of the last year and a half, my time has largely revolved around the case. Every day, there was new evidence to review, conversations to be had with our attorneys and a near daily deluge of new issues created by mother, all of which had to be addressed and managed.
Essentially, my mother didn’t have a respectable case to put on, so her strategy was to attempt to drain me financially; to rob my family of our financial future….and let’s just say the court allowed her to do it.
Meanwhile, we did our best to stay on the high road. We accumulated our evidence and prepared to present our case.
In an effort to help minimize some of the mounting legal fees, I did a lot of the administrative work for our attorney’s. I indexed transcripts from various hearings and depositions. I created detailed timelines and summarized dozens of records, from police reports, to more than 40 hours of jail/prison calls.
It was mentally exhausting. But it’s done now and so it’s time to box this mess up and carry on. Which, is sort of a metaphor for the first 30-odd years of my life.
I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy dissecting my childhood and adolescence and early adulthood. I’ve tried 1:1 therapy and group therapy. I’ve had both male and female therapists and I’ve tried a few psychiatrists/psychologists as well. But I’ve never been able to connect to counseling.
I couldn’t understand the incessant need to draw parallels between my “trauma past” and my present. I already knew about those parallels.
I had crappy communication skills and when I fought, I fought to win. I spewed mean things, like really mean things that were intended to cut to the emotional quick. I brought bombs to verbal debates.
And yeah….I did it, because it’s all I knew. I never learned the art of resolving conflict without drawing blood and/or causing permanent emotional trauma.
I knew that the way I responded to life wasn’t healthy or productive. I knew right from wrong. I never felt good about myself in the aftermath of a blow-out with someone I cared about.
So, self-reflection, got it.
As I got older, I stopped trying to hide my past and I became pretty open about my experiences, regardless of the audience.
You might talk about your idyllic upbringing on a maple syrup farm in Vermont and gush about how much you’ve come to cherish your relationship with your mother while we’re out to brunch for the first time….I might (most definitely will) talk about how my family got kicked out of church when I was a kid and that time my mom hit me so hard in the face, I saw actual stars.
So, ability to talk about it….check!
I could acknowledge that crappy things happened to me, but that in the grand scheme of things, I was still a person of privilege.
I have sat with it. I’ve acknowledged it. I’ve mourned it. I’ve felt all of the feelings for it. I’ve analyzed it, accepted it, honored it….all the stuff.
I didn’t need to keep talking about it. I needed to know what I was supposed to do with it. I had been carrying around this load of emotional garbage for so long, I honestly didn’t know how to function without it. And it was fucking shit up.
It was making me ugly and mean and jaded and really, just an asshole, but not the kind of asshole people like.
What I needed to know and what NOBODY told me in all the talking and talking and talking….was that I could just let it go. That I could cut the shit, and stop being such a jerk, and just choose to be happy.
The revelation came after a rough session in couples counseling with my husband. So, maybe therapy was helpful after all. But, I don’t know, I think the Aha! was born more out of annoyance than therapeutic progress.
Anyway, I was talking to our therapist about something specific that was triggering me in our marriage. A slight I felt was real. And it was.
I wanted, desperately, for her to understand that this was a feeling I was having that was relevant to the present and not deeply rooted in my past. But she wasn’t having it. As I was word vomiting she said to me, “He’s not your mother.”
And all hell broke loose. Out of me. It’s possible I levitated. I got up and left, declaring I was done.
From there, I did exactly what I always did. I ran and took my garbage with me. I disappeared from my life and my husband and into myself and my garbage. I waged a war in my head with everyone until I was exhausted.
And then, something clicked. My feelings and thoughts mattered. I knew this. But no one could hear me through the filter of my garbage.
And that wasn’t going to change until I made peace with it and let it go.
So I did.
Of course, it’s a lot easier said than done. It requires taking a giant leap of faith into life; over and over again. And sometimes, it’s scary and it’s hard. Especially when you know you’re showing up without any of the tools you’re supposed to have. It’s kind of like bursting into a crowded room, naked. But the alternative, is not showing up at all.
And I wanted to show up. I was married to a really great guy, like truly THE BEST, who was trying so damn hard to understand me and show up for me, even when I made it nearly impossible.
We had started a family of our own. I was a mother and I worried every single minute that I would mess it up.
I believed I would ruin everything. I knew I would self-sabotage and drive my life into the ground and there would be no coming back from it. I didn’t want that, of course I didn’t, but I couldn’t figure out how to exist among the mess.
Forever, I had been trying to figure out how to live and behave and communicate through and/or around the garbage. I had been waiting and listening and even asking for instructions on how to do that. I thought that’s what therapy was for. To teach me how to live like a normal person, but within the confines of my dysfunction. I don’t even know if that makes sense.
It never occurred to me that I could just pack it up and put it away. Yes, it’s still a part of my story, but I don’t have to lug it around. And there is so much power in that.
I have managed to break the cycles of abuse and dysfunction and addiction that I grew-up with. I decided it wasn’t the way I wanted to live, and then I set about figuring out how to live the life I wanted.
Simply put, I decided to be happy. And I think it’s the best way to honor the part of me that spent way too many years being afraid.
I read once, that “happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”
I don’t know about all that. I certainly don’t love every minute and I’m not always willing to extend grace, but I am grateful AF. Because, I have a lot to be grateful for.
So while I’d like to sit in self-righteous indignation for a little while longer (I never said I was perfect), I’m going to pack this stuff up too and let it go. The question is though, where do I put it? Not metaphorically. I mean literally.
Should I tuck away the body cam videos with our collection of home movies? You know, so that we can all gather together someday and reminisce while we watch my son blow out his first birthday candles….and then watch my mom stand on the front lawn, barefoot on a cold December day, the remnants of Halloween decorations and that one, cracked, plastic Santa that’s been there since 2001, visible in the background, while she tells a police officer she suspects one of my brothers of throwing a brick through the back window of her car….only, the brick isn’t anywhere to be found, until she magically discovers it lying at an angle that makes it obvious it was either planted, or it’s just part of the neighbors landscaping.
Would the police and court records related to the all those calls about dogs running at large and a missing ferret, go with the old mementos I saved from my first fur baby?
FYI on the ferret, I hope he made it out of there. Or, I hope he was at least a meal for one of the pets starving to death in that house. I’m not sure which I hope for more.
Do the various cards and letters I’ve saved over the years, go with the stacks of JPay communications I subpoenaed from two different correctional facilities? (JPay is prison email, if you don’t know….and really, if you are going to follow me here, you’re going to have to learn my language).
You know, I think I’ll just leave it all in a nondescript box to collect dust in the deepest recesses of our basement and hope it’s one of those things the kids just arbitrarily dump off at Goodwill or something, after I’m dead.