I’m going to try this post again. I’m just not happy with the first go-round.
I sounded redundant and bitchy and entitled, and while I am probably all those things, I can, at the very least, express it in a more existential way.
My birth certificate tells me that in 5 weeks I will have spent 40 years as a human.
Yes, I’ve been a bitter human at times. I was the epitome of the little girl who always wanted to be a big girl, always wanted to “do it all by my own self,” and viciously hated authority.
I look back at my childhood and, although much of it was idyllic, the bitter parts still sometimes invade the idyll in my memories.
I can do it all by my own goddamned self. And I still viciously hate authority.
I guard my heart with a fucking cement wall because when you are a child, your heart belongs to whomever thinks they have a legal claim to it. My fear of abandonment is so palpable, even now, that I still feel the only heartbreak I’ve ever experienced. I feel it to my core. I internalized it. It became part of me. I hate myself every day for the one and only time I let that wall crumble at the feet of someone who wielded so much power over my heart that I couldn’t understand how to let go and dance with it. It scared me. And I think I scared it right back. I wish I could dance. I wish I could just let go and dance. To fall, let go, and just be.
You see, in the Big World there exists a special kind of vampire that feeds off the fledgling spirits of the Little World. Even the kindest and gentlest grownups in a child’s life cannot protect them from these toxic monsters. .
It is a kind of toxicity that permeates everything and lingers long. It is anger and narcissism and complicated neediness piled upon a child at an age when she is still trying to define her own feelings and should never be shouldered with the responsibility of someone else’s emotional and mental health.
Her spirit is slowly drained of its sanguine vitae by these vampires who, when challenged, are always able to conveniently provide proof of legal consent. Legality always equals morality when it suits their purpose, and when it doesn’t, they simply vomit words until one of them hits the bull’s eye.
I look back on that time in my life and feel the same rush of anger and urgency as a claustrophic stuck in a storm drain. It’s a feeling that guides my decisions on an almost daily basis. It is why I raised my children with as much free agency as was practical, short of letting them dance naked around a fire throwing rocks at Piggy.
It is why I refuse to fake a friendship, pretend to love, or show respect to those who haven’t earned it.
It is why I refuse to be guided by social expectations for their own sake.
It is why I show love by giving more of myself to others than by what I can take from them.
More than anything else, feeling as though I had no agency as a child was the most poisonous pill to swallow. There was always someone who thought they knew better than I did what was best for me physically or psychologically. Children have no choice over who they spend their time with, who is allowed to influence them, who is allowed to frighten them, who is allowed to raise them. If they’re lucky, they can at least voice their opinions, but in the end, the government knows best.
At almost 40 years old, I am still angry. Angry that I had no choices, no right to my own body, time, or space; that my wishes, my needs, and all attempts to hold them sacred were taken away by people who used equations to map out my childhood, replacing my name with an anonymous variable and making choices for me that had zero basis in what I wanted or needed.
I am angry that there were people in my life who thought they had a right to tell me who I must love and respect. Because I was a child. And by law, I was required to hand over my soul, the one thing that was my own and belonged to no one else, simply because they believed they have a right to take it.
I am angry that my childhood was fractured into two camps- the sane and the insane- and I was legally required to sleep in both tents. Because I was a child. And I couldn’t possibly know insanity even as it screamed in my face.
I am angry that I was told what I should and shouldn’t, what I could and couldn’t, what I will and won’t.
Yes, those things still make me angry, but I have learned how to use that anger. I use it when I give something I have to someone who needs it more. I use it when I fearlessly defend the hearts of the people I love. I use it when I show my children how much I respect their ability to make their own decisions by allowing them to make those decisions. I use it every time I admit I am wrong, every time I consider an alternate opinion, every time I hand the reigns to someone else because they’d rather go their own way for a little while.
But because that anger is so real and so visceral and so present, the number of people I love enough to hand the reigns to is so very, very small. Or maybe it’s because, in point of fact, there are so few people who deserve it. Both could be true.
Once upon a time, there was a peach tree sapling in the middle of a desert. Its roots were strong, its branches lithe, but it could not run or hide. Its voice was but a whisper of rustling leaves. The man who helped plant the tree was a broken man, spiteful and jealous; he felt entitled to every peach dangling from her tiny branches. He was deaf, starving, and did not know nor care if she needed water, shade or warmth. He couldn’t hear her begging for it even if he chose to listen, and would have refused to spare the little he had for himself even if he could’ve heard her.
When the rain and shade or sun came to her rescue, they would plead with the starving man to give her a chance to grow. He would drool, grunt, posture like a rabid animal, then strip her limbs bare.
Was he afraid that if she was allowed to grow unharmed, she may become stronger than him? (She did.)
Was there truly no more substance to this man than the hollow shell of a pseudo-human? (There wasn’t.)
The water, shade, and sun stood strong and reliable. In every direction the little sapling’s branches could reach, all three were there. They nurtured and soothed her. She knew love because she felt quenched, fed, and safe. They were everything the little sapling needed, but none of them could stand against the fury of the starving man.
He said he loved her with every peach he stole. Juice running down his neck, he muttered small words as he ripped and tore, gnashed and snarled.
One day, he said to the sapling, “Oh, how I have loved you. I travel here every day to see you. That proves how much I love you. I have admired your beautiful fruits. That also proves how much I love you. I even helped to plant you! Why don’t you bow your branches to me the way you bow to the rain and the shade? Why don’t you throw your branches toward me the way you throw them toward the sun? Have they turned you against me? Don’t you love me, too?”
She thought about this for a while. The man became anxious.
She knew one kind of love, the kind she felt from the rain and sun and shade, the kind that asked nothing from her but that she grow strong and solid and real.
Yet, her mind could not wrap itself around this other kind of love, the kind that is demanded, expected, and taken. She thought about this a while longer, putting the pieces together in her little mind.
Soon, the answer became clear. The sapling then told the man, “I’m sorry, but I cannot love you. You have no peaches for me to steal.”