There is no greater buzz kill than returning to New York on Christmas Day.
This was my takeaway after leaving my family in Philadelphia, as they were preparing to host Christmas dinner. In the midst of the Cavalier/Warriors basketball game. I knew then that I’d regret that decision. I was correct.
Heart already heavy from the realization that I’d spent less than 24 hours with them before heading back, the lateness of the train to Trenton, the loneliness of sitting and walking in silence for four hours, and the return to a city awash in people just trying to find their place in it, stole whatever joy I managed to muster in those brief moments filled with laughter, long tight hugs, deep conversations and an unexpectedly fun game involving a shit-ton of saran wrap.
It has taken me hours to place the source of my sadness: Everything feels unstable in my life right now.
On the surface, things look great. I’m in the most ideal job, home and relationship that I’ve ever been in throughout all of my forty-two years. And it scares me to death to think that it’s all too good to be true. But the last few weeks have me bracing for a future in which I’m about to find out how much I’m capable of handling on my own…again.
Which brings me to my parents. Because everything ultimately leads back to the people who made you.
There are days when I resented them. There are days I pitied them. There are days when I try to understand where their heads were at when they thought it was okay to leave me with strangers, neighbors and members of their families who turned out to be child molesters. There have been days where I’ve felt personally affronted when they’d get credit for my accomplishments in life, when neither had been in it full time since I was twelve. And there are days when I accept the fact that they had no idea what they were doing and – in the case of my father – eventually did the best he could, considering he didn’t have the most nurturing parents.
Last year after my father’s passing, I unexpectedly found myself digesting story after story about how involved my father was in the lives of so many people. Normally, that would cause a swelling of pride to know how beloved your dad was, and how many lives he touched and impacted. The thing is…he was being other people’s hero during the years I struggled to pay tuition, find a job that paid a livable wage and compensate for his absence with remarkably insecure and occasionally abusive partners after deeming myself unloveable (the thought you have when your parents are alive and well, but not involved in your life).
And while years of tough conversations in our later lives healed that wound enough to compel me to assume the role of his caregiver in his final years, the pain of the time and moments lost will never fully go away.
In my adult life, it has manifested itself into someone who is fiercely independent, but constantly seeking connection. Terrified of becoming her mother, no longer interested in becoming a mother, but strangely aware that her ability to listen to and comprehend children would’ve made her a great mother. Someone who now knows that words unspoken lead to opportunities unrealized…for better or worse. Someone who somehow managed to take decades of trauma, fear, anger and resentment, and turn it into the fuel that keeps her going in her daily journeys to a place where she finds peace, love and acceptance in who she is…and who she isn’t.
Someone who is still struggling to understand what’s become of this world in the past year; where it seems everyone is reminding her of her parents, — in the sense that they willingly chose roles in which they have a responsibility to take care of people, but everything goes to shit because they’re too busy serving their own interests and enriching their own lives while those who need help suffer from neglect.
See what I did there?
This whole year has been a trigger of near catastrophic levels. As vocal as I’ve been over the past year and change to friends, family and the social media world, the words somehow escaped me to truly express how I feel about all this chaos.
To be reminded on a daily basis that there are people in power whose mission in life is to take away my power takes me to places only this blog and my therapist can pull me out of.
With that, I’m going into 2018 absolutely terrified, yet still acutely aware that I’ve done this before.
And I’m still here.
I have to believe there’s something good about that.
Even if it’s to testify that things can – and will – get better.
Also: If they haven’t already, your parents will fuck you up in some way, shape or form. I cannot stress the importance of having a fantastic support system, an openness to look into your self to clean and mend the wounds properly, and let go of the things you thought you knew so you can learn something new.
The past can be our anchor, or it can be our teacher.
We still have the power to choose which it will be.
Happy New Year.