I’m going to preface this with the following acknowledgement.
I’ve been trying to find the right words to articulate this for the better part of a week. I’ve sat down at my computer and started trying to get them out, only to turn right back around and whitewash every single one, because they cut too close to the very raw emotions that are connected to them.
And I’m sure by the time I’m done here, I’m still going to feel like I didn’t find them or this is not going to make much sense, but I guess I’ll try the best I can.
I’ve often wondered what sort of a person I’d be had I been allowed to be a normal kid.
Now depending on your perspective, it could be rationally argued that my life was all too normal by comparison to a lot of other people in this country.
My parents split before I was six and I had to figure out how to get by in that sort of dynamic. As a result, my family is not close.
I haven’t spoken to my mother in nearly three years. I haven’t spoken to my brother in at least four. My dad and I talk on occasion, but we both have come to recognize that we are two totally different people and because of that and a lot of history we share, our relationship is never going to be what it could have been.
Like most people who grow up in a broken home, I spent a lot of time as a kid trying to figure out if I had some impact, either directly or indirectly, on why my parents didn’t stay together. It wasn’t until I was a teenager and I became more aware of what things like addiction and abusive behavior can do to a relationship that I realized that no, it wasn’t my fault.
At least…not entirely.
My mother remarried and divorced again when I was about ten, and during the entire time he was in my life, I was thoroughly convinced that my stepfather absolutely and unquestionably hated me.
To be fair, he never laid a hand on me, though I watched him hit my brother once and by the end, I had seen and heard him abuse my mom a couple of times.
Situations like that force you to act in ways that most kids are not really equipped to handle, I don’t think. You have to find strength you’re not really sure you possess, a measure of bravery despite being scared out of your damn wits half the time, and you learn how to combat anger with an equal and opposing anger.
Anger and hatred, after all, are learned emotions brought out only through the onset of conflict. No one rolls of out bed some morning and is just naturally pissed off at something or someone. There has to be a catalyst to initiate it and then a justification, either rational or otherwise, to fuel it.
Once my stepfather was gone, I hoped I wasn’t going to have to feel that measure of animosity directed at me again. But it did.
Human beings are resilient creatures. We really are. We can take a whole hell of a lot of punishment and not only shake it off, but we pride ourselves and celebrate our capacity to overcome adversity, but even that has limits.
To this day, I have never been able to forget what my mother said to me that night, 26 years-ago, when she came into my bedroom and said she was sending me away.
“I can’t teach you what you need to be a man,” she said, trying her best to justify the decision she was making.
What she never heard as those words reached my ears, was the underlying message I got along with it, which was, I’m done with you. I’m tired of being your mother and I’ll be better off when you’re gone.
And as much as I don’t like to accept it, the reality is she got exactly what she wanted. She remarried and was able to do all the things she’s wanted to do since. In hindsight, all she had to do was take me out of the equation and as she told me many times in the years since, she’s as happy as she’s ever been.
For years, what I took away from that was the passive-aggressive reinforcement that I was the reason she wasn’t happy.
When you’re faced with that potential realization, there is no armor thick enough, no muscle tough enough and no bone strong enough to take that kind of a shot. There just isn’t. It goes right through you and tears you to shreds.
The thing that I didn’t understand then, and I still don’t understand to this day, is the why.
What was it about me that warranted so much disdain? It wasn’t like I was some incorrigible troublemaker who excelled in making life hell for everyone around me. Sure, I did stupid things and I made mistakes and I challenged authority, but show me a child who doesn’t do that to their parents at least once in their lives.
I’m not proud of it. Not one bit. But as far I know and there is a whole of evidence to support this theory, that’s part of both being a kid and a parent. That’s the deal.
Believe me, in hindsight, I would have loved nothing more than to have been able to just go to school, learn about stuff, come home, play with my friends, occasionally do my homework and had an otherwise “typical” milquetoast upbringing.
And please, before you ask why I don’t just get over it, already, stop and ask yourself how much it would honestly affect you if you’d had to go through the exact same thing?
I’m not a betting man, but I’m willing to make a good educated guess it wouldn’t roll off your back any easier than it has mine, thank you very much.
I also know I became a totally different person from then on. I became both fanatically desperate to find some measure of affection and acceptance that could make me feel like I wasn’t someone that nobody cared about, and paradoxically, I tried like hell to keep everyone I cared about at arm’s length or further, even though I knew instinctively that I was eventually going to have to let somebody in.
For a while, I thought I’d had that when I was married. Then the same thing happened all over again…twice, in fact.
Each time, I’ve been left with a single rational and logical conclusion. There is something terribly wrong with me and I have to figure out what it is.
Now I could argue that being diagnosed with Clinical Depression and PTSD could be a big red flag, sure. But I’ve also never been able to accept that it’s just those things alone. There has to be something else. Something I am not seeing either deliberately or because I just can’t, which is the reason why this process keeps repeating itself.
Because if there wasn’t, then I’m left wondering why it is that the lives of everyone around me that I care about seem to become exponentially better once I’m not in close proximity anymore?
Maybe, despite what I’d like to think are my best efforts to prove to the contrary, I am just someone that is never going to have that kind of connection because I’m not supposed to.
After all, as I’ve been told many a time by many a person, life isn’t fair. I’m neither entitled to, nor deserving of anything. If I’m not good enough to have the things I want, then I have no one to blame but myself. You just suck it up and deal, right?
This is a debate I’ve been having with myself since I was 12-years-old, and each year at this time I’m reminded, whether I want to think about it or not, of that night and those words and what, if anything, I could’ve done to keep my mother from saying them to me…
…and I have a feeling that I’m going to keep having that debate until I finally figure it all out.
Until then, I suppose it’s best to keep your distance.