Sometimes when I’m standing on the road half way between the good side and half way between the bad side of me I start to believe what people think of me.
There’s a crack that emerges in the asphalt – splitting, splitting, spitting up rocks and road dust and all the things wrapped in blackened paper that I keep at the back of my heart – things I don’t want to admit to myself; things that I don’t want to be there but are there. Things I don’t want to be true.
That I am not a very nice person.
That I am uncommunicative.
That I bring certain things upon myself.
That to like me as a person is very, very difficult because I am very, very difficult.
I work on these things all the time but sometimes when the crack in the road begins to widen, they emerge grubby-faced and vigorous. Regenerated.
There are only some people who have seen those parts of me wrapped in dark paper.
My family, mostly.
Some people in the family like those parts to remain firmly underground where they belong; others like it when the crack in the road widens and the taint in me flies free.
Because it helps them.
It gives them an excuse to act apallingly.
Because my unwrapped, blackened parts have driven them to it.
Or so I’m told.
My parents are leaving for Christmas in America in two weeks.
They haven’t yet told me.
I found out through my sister.
They probably weren’t going to tell me at all.
I know that technically we are having a big time out from one another.
But being in a different country for Christmas is fairly significant news.
I thought they might have let me know.
I’m not even angry. Or sad.
I’m just shaking my head saying: So it’s come to this.
I’m thinking I must be the person they make me out to be.
Otherwise they wouldn’t be such petty, vicious children.
I walk in the rain praying for clarity, my old walking shoes squeaking like floorboards. And then I see it. A puddle big as a mirror. As clear as one.
And I see my face in it. Silver and black and grey and blue all at once.
And I know that face.
And I know the fears I have.
The rocks by the puddle are covered in mud. Velvety, glossy mud that doesn’t look as if it could spawn anything sinister.
The wind ruffles the surface of the water.
My face is reshuffled.
When the water calms it is the same face.
The face I know.
I am not monstrous or even threatening.
I am just me.
Living as best as I can.
And as I walk back home the crack in the road has disappeared.
The street are half wet, half dry, patchy as paint flicked from brushes.
And it occurs to me that this is the way that life is – the good and the bad parts jostling to stand in the light.
And there is nothing wrong with that if we let ourselves be who we are.
If we let ourselves be ourselves.
A storm is coming up.
But that is good because in the morning everything will be clean.
And the roads will be seamless, undisturbed.
How sad. Don’t you believe it Selma. You are certainly not the blackened husk who brings it on themselves. By laying the blame at your feet it makes it easier for them to look in the mirror each day and how they sleep at night wrapped in self righteousness. Love , family love especially, should be unconditional. It shouldn’t rest with whether or not a person conforms. Unfortunately as you and I both know, some people revel in making sure people follow their ideals or risk being cast off.
I like the way this is written because it shows that you are coming to accept that you can’t change them, all you can do is change the way you react to them and that life literally is a balance of dark and light. There can be no good without the balance of bad.
Sometimes being cast off is the key to happiness , where the good outshines the bad brilliantly even when good and bad are balanced.
Don’t let the bastards grind ya down!
In other words…you’re human.
Your parents knew you’d find out through your sister. They’re being passive aggressive. Let them have their calculation and manipulation. It’s a reflection of who they are, Sel, not you. I know it’s heartbreaking, though, and I’m so sorry about that.
…but who’s to say a Christmas with your own little family unit won’t turn out to be even more wonderful than ever before? Who’s to say that not having to contend with the annual holiday rehashing of any given drama won’t produce a state of peaceful contentment, and gratitude? Who’s to say? xoxo
Exactly. You’re you, and to approach life as something you’re not just to please others is not going to give you any lasting happiness or contentment. The concept that a child (even an adult child) can force the parent to behave poorly is ridiculous: that is a lack of strength on the parent’s part, not a failing on the part of child. We all have choices in how we respond to each other, and I agree with Steph; your parents have chosen a passive aggressive approach out of pettiness and a false sense of entitlement. That is abusive behaviour.
I must say that your post has an air of Dostoevsky Existentialism to it –
I agree with Cathy and Steph. I hope all goes well.
I just wanted to say how much I value your comments and how fortunate I am to have met you via the blogosphere. You are right – I am moving through to a stage where they can’t get a rise out of me anymore and it is a really good feeling. It took a while but putting space between me and them has really worked. Of course, there will be things that come along that goad me somewhat but I am hoping that mostly I will be able to laugh about it from now on.
Thank you so much for your advice and support. It means so much X
Now here’s the twist – we are overjoyed to be able to spend Christmas in our own way. I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders so if they were actually trying to hurt me their plan has backfired. I haven’t been able to cook or do any of the things I’ve wanted to on Christmas day for 20 years so I am really looking forward to it. I am even going to make my own Christmas cake. It might end up being the best Christmas ever!!
It’s crazy, isn’t it? I don’t know why they keep playing this tired, old game. As my hubby said last night – ‘Why don’t they just grow up?’ I do believe that passive aggressive behaviour can become habitual and it can be hard to stop it. It’s a shame because in the long run they are the ones who miss out.
You are so funny. I was definitely channelling some old Russian spirit when I wrote this. There was all that doom and gloom peppered with existential angst. I could have been writing it in the gulag. Your comment has cheered me no end. Thank you, my friend!
yeah i am pretty sure they figured you would find out…petty really…and it sucks…but you have yourself to worry about. sounds easy huh. smiles. what can you do though. you can not change thema nd they you only if you let them…
It is interesting reading the reader reactions and then your comments back to them Selma. I am sorry that this is something that you are dealing with. Families seem to make things awfully complicated.
It’s a sad situation, but listening to it, it does seem you have taken the ‘grown up’ roll and are dealing with it well, unfortunately some people never reach an even mildly self aware state and do play their patterns/dramas out on others, usually the one who won’t ‘play the game’. I think you may be right and your christmas will be a good one where you can be your perfectly wonderful self :o)
You know, your parents remind me of an aunt and uncle of mine … for nearly 40 years, they wouldn’t speak to my cousin … because she married an Italian. For a long time, they wouldn’t speak to me, my brother or my parents, because WE spoke to her!
However, I did get a letter from my aunt last year, asking if I knew Roz’s address … ‘ … but don’t tell Uncle Jim I asked’ … so maybe there’s a a slight thaw coming up?
Stick in there, lassie, and, as we used to say in the Air Force, ‘Nil illegitimo carborundum’!
I agree with the comments above. In spite of this latest slap in the face from your parents, you are truly making progress in how you deal with this situation. DON’T let them win. Idon’t know why they treat you like they do but it is not because of any character flaws or failings you have. How people can be so petty and mean I don’t understand. But it happens all the time.
Do you have relatives they are going to visit? I wondered…this is such a big trip for them to be taking, especially at such a busy time of year.
Hugs Sel, again I am so sorry for all the hurt you’ve had to live with, because of your family. They are so missing out on being with someone as special and kind as you are.
There isn’t anything you can do about it Selma. You tried.
Labels are extremely powerful, especially when applied by family. I’m so glad you can rise above it. You are not the picture they paint, as you say. You are real, and human and lovely. And if there are issues, they’ve got to grow up and take some responsibility for their part in them. If they don’t, there’s really nothing you can do about it.
Look on the bright side, any issues you might have been dealing with at Christmas are going to be far, far away. Shine on sister.
It does sound easy but can be hard to put into practice. I will persevere, though. I feel that it’s worth it!
Families often make things unecessarily complicated. These are the same people who say “life is too short” and “family is the most important thing.” I have to admit that sometimes I just don’t know where they are coming from.
I don’t feel right saying this – but I am really looking forward to this Christmas. I haven’t felt like this for ages. I will be able to just releax and do what I want. It’s going to be brilliant!
I will hang in there. I like the Latin usage of ‘Don’t let the bastards….’ much more. Funny story – I mentioned your Latin version to my neighbour on the way to school this morning (she was having a bad day) and her son said: ‘Is that from Harry Potter?’ How cute is that?
They are going to stay with my sister in Alaska. She and my Mum do NOT get on. I give them two days before there is a blow up. Deep down I know it’s not me. I know many perfectly normal, nice people who are treated poorly by their families. Sometimes it is just the way it is. I think I am coping better with these things than I used to. Thanks for noticing!
Labels really are ugly and can be hard to peel away. They do need to take responsibility. AMEN.
I know this Christmas is going to be a good one. I will definitely be shining on!!!
You are a wonderful sensitive and loving person – full stop! (or exclamation mark 🙂 )
Harry’s done a lot for Latin, hasn’t he? 😉
You are very kind to say that. Thank you!!
It is amazing what Harry has done for Latin, isn’t it? I thought it was so cute.
Oh Selma, this breaks my heart.
And I’m VERY sorry to say this, but since I have been reading your blog for a long time, and I am all too familiar with your family history- I just have to say it. Your family are a bunch of assholes.
YOU are flipping AMAZING and if they cant see that – it’s their loss.
All the above plus… A writer has a choice to write what others expect or to express your truth. You do the latter, and I hope so do I. But there is as cost.
Also, because you have written, you have thought and you have confronted. That flows into your relationships.
We are all expercted to be so ‘nice’ all the time no matter what we really think. I could quote heaps from your post, but choose this:
1.”That I am not a very nice person.
2.That I am uncommunicative.
3.That I bring certain things upon myself.”
1 is subjective
2 is clearly not true.
3 is strue, but what would you do? Be nice to all the pretneders or be intellectually honest? You, my dear, have no choice. But those who really know you do love you, warts and all!
Well, I read through the comments after I read this very dark post, and I am glad to see you see it the way I do. CHRISTMAS ISN’T HELD HOSTAGE anymore! Whoo-hoo for you! You are deserving of so much more, and will receive it in the end – whether it’s from this family or some family you adopt along the way.
Recently my mother said, “Why don’t you make up with your sister?” and I was genuinely surprised. “Is she mad at me?” I asked. “No,” she said. “It’s just you’re not close.” Well, that’s not my fault, and a quiet treaty where we talk once a year is fine with me. I’m just sorry it hurts Mom. But what can you do? It’s that or kick against the pricks… uh, bricks. Neither is pleasant.
A very LATE reply on my part, I am sorry. You are the amazing one. Thank you for your never-ending support. It means so much to me.
I really appreciate what you have said. I am a big advocate for the truth. Sometimes it is not pleasant to hear it just as it is not pleasant to say it, but often it has to be said. Thank you for your support and for the knack you have of putting things into perspective. I am very grateful.
Christmas isn’t held hostage anymore has such a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
I understand re. your sister. Why battle constantly if you don’t have to? Sometimes the path of least resistance is the one we’re meant to follow anyway. I cherish your wisdom. XX