Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Absence of Fear

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something is more important than fear." ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt

It's a quarter 'til three in the morning, but I had to get this down before I lost my nerve. I'm not quite sure where to begin, so I'll start in the middle and see if we can find the original thread. 

Tonight, I watched a movie. That's not unusual, and it wasn't a particularly good movie so I'll spare you the title. The ending of the movie sent me into a crying fit. Also not unusual - I have a tendency, as I've noted previously, to get emotionally invested in the lives of fictional characters. I cry at sad movies; I cry at happy movies; I cry at comedies, because sometimes they're actually funny. But this was not a cry that ended. Sometimes, I start crying and I can't stop.

At first I thought it was because I went off my meds. Then I thought, well, maybe it's because tonight wasn't the best night (it wasn't). But the crying didn't, and hasn't, stopped. And I knew that there was a better reason. It's because the movie touched me, like many bad movies and shows do so well. They reach inside me, to that most tender of spots, and they poke and prod and jab and jar until I can't take anymore. And then they stop, and I have to deal with the aftermath.

There's a scene in the movie where the daughter is literally running away from her mother. And they're both angry and scared and upset, but the mother keeps running. Even though she's two steps behind, in heels, and completely hungover, she keeps running. And eventually the daughter stops, and they talk it out. But the mother never gives up. And I realized that I don't think I know what that's like. I can't say for certain that my parents would chase me.

I've written countless letters to myself. Younger, older, and in-between. I try to give encouragement; a bit of kindness from the future, and a bit of hope from the past. My sixth grade self told me she hopes we're better at "the whole family thing." I don't know if we are or not. I've also written letters to my future children, should I be lucky enough to have any. I wanted them to have written proof that I would do anything for them. But now I'm starting to think that maybe that message was meant for me.

"Dear You," the letter says. "You don't know me yet, but I am your mother. Well, one of them. And I just wanted you to know that, even though we haven't met, and I don't know how you look or act or smile or cry, I love you more than anything. I will always love you more than anything, even if we fight or if you get mad at me or you break the law. Even if you kill somebody (heaven forbid), I will be there to help you hide the body. That's what parents are for."

I haven't been able to make the assessment that anything is more important than self-preservation. I can't tell my parents that I wish they'd tried harder to understand me and less hard to change me. I can't say that I wish my parents hadn't scarred me so deeply or left me so wounded. I'm white; I live in a good house, in a good neighborhood; I have had a brilliant education; my parents make more than enough money for the four of us. I understand privilege. But I don't think privilege has a place anymore when you're a little girl screaming out for attention and love. I don't believe privilege is relevant when all you want is to stop being hurt.

How do the statements I make about pacifism and charity carry any weight if I can't forgive my parents for trying to do the right things? I think it's all over with and I think I've moved past this baggage but then it's 3:15 AM and I've been crying for two hours and it's hard to breathe.

Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. My nose is clogged from crying, which is why my vision got fuzzy. I forgot I could breathe through my mouth, too. I want to go to sleep - my head is killing me - but I'm afraid of the nightmares. Those happen more often than I'd like. I feel silly for being afraid, and I feel sillier for what I'm afraid of. They're always people I know - teachers, friends, family - and they tell me that they're tired. That they can't associate with me anymore. That I'm too much to handle. Same words, different people, and always like a punch to the gut. I think they're worse because they're real. If I couldn't imagine them happening in person, they might not be as scary. But they've happened before.

I used to wish I was adopted. That somehow, my real parents made a mistake, and they were in a better place and wanted to take me in. I used to picture myself running away, and having some kindly family take me in and raise me as their own. I could've written and starred in so many '90s family movies that it's kind of a bummer I wasn't born earlier, but I have countless early stories featuring me in various stages of pitiable-ness. 

Sometimes my closet isn't so scary. There are some skeletons, sure, but the door's open and the light's bright and the stack of suitcases in the corner make a nice bench to curl up on. Sometimes the bulb breaks and sometimes the suitcase wobbles and sometimes I can't go in there at all. But I'm getting better. I'm realizing that patterns can start to look symmetrical, but if you examine further, there's a different commonality that's more irregular than not. I'm realizing that even if things are technically about me, that doesn't mean that it started or ended that way. I'm realizing that bags are lighter if you share the loads.

I stopped crying. I still wish there was someone to sing me a lullaby, but I feel a little better when I sing one to myself. Good night.


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