I've spent the last two days doing just that. And then something happened today to solidify what I've been thinking about. So bear with me--this isn't the kind of post I usually write. No laughs here today.
There's always been a lot of tension in my family. Most of that is due to personalities and the history those personalities created for themselves. I spent a long time running from my family--everyone. Even my own kids. I hit a point in my life as an adult where I broke under the constant pressure. Literally. Snapped like a weak tree in a strong breeze. And I fled.
I disappeared entirely from my family and friends and stayed disappeared for a long, long time. Ever see the lyrics to the song Chandelier?
I'm gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I'm gonna live like tomorrow doesn't exist
Like it doesn't exist
I'm gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
I'm gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier -- Sia @allrightsreserved
That could have been written about me. It's a failure in my life, one that I face the repercussions of every single day. My mother died before we reconciled. My father is far more forgiving. And one daughter forgave me while the other didn't.
As is understandable.
But then, I reached a point of maturity--not the maturity that says I'm old enough to vote or drink, but the maturity to look at myself and recognize my own failure as a human being and the damage I left in my wake as a result. At first, it's easy to blame your failings on someone else. My mother was a convenient target for that. The last time I saw her, she literally stalked me to an event I was helping to cater and screamed at me in front of hundreds of people. I walked away from her, but I couldn't walk away from her voice. I still hear it echoing in my head.
I will always hear it.
That was a moment of decision. And like all that came before it, it was a moment I failed. Sometimes, though, failure really is the only option. There was no way to win that encounter or to turn it aside because my mother had determined on the day she sought me out that she was going to cause a scene and there was nothing I could do to stop it. It wasn't until I gained the emotional security I needed (thanks to my husband and his family) that I could take a step back and consider my own. And when I faced that family situation squarely, it became apparent to me that I had to do whatever I could to rebuild those burnt bridges.
There's a different sort of courage involved when you head into a situation and are willing to accept full responsibility for your faults while rejecting the idea that someone else made you do it, someone else drove you away, someone else is really to blame for YOUR mistakes. I walked back into the world I'd fled and did just that. Wasn't easy. Nothing to congratulate myself about it.
It had to be done in order for me to move on--and hopefully for them too.
But some damage can't be repaired, and that's where the real tragedies are created.
I'm not an inherently kind person or a thoughtful person or a brilliant person. I've done some pretty messed up stuff which I regret, as any normal person would. But I do think more about what I do and say and consider. Or I try to. And I move on. I accept responsibility for what I do and move forward from that point.
But I also learned that sometimes there is no other option but to walk away while they're screaming after you, doing their best to destroy whatever fragile accord you've forged for yourself and your life. And just like an amputated limb, even though intellectually you know it's gone you can still feel that phantom pain torturing you constantly with a succession of 'what if--' pipe dreams and vain hopes.
There are a lot of families feeling that phantom pain right now. And there are a lot of people today who feel it and know that they are personally responsible for that amputation. They have no one to blame but themselves.
I have no one to blame but myself.
But there's something you take away from stories like mine, too. I tried and failed to reconcile with all my family. I agonized over that for a long time.
And then I left that phantom pain behind, because while I can control my actions I cannot control anyone else's. I made a deliberate decision to no longer live in fear or guilt or anger, and just to let that sorrow go. Every day, I have a moment where I think--"wow, I wish I'd made up with Mom before she died" or "Man, I wish that so and so didn't hate me" or "if there was only some way I could make it up/get through to them/make things work". But that process is a dual one, not a solo act. All I can do is to make my side of things as tranquil as possible and hope that one day the other end of the road will meet mine.
And if it doesn't? I accept that and move on.
So take a look at your own life. How many resentments are you holding that have poisoned your life and relationships? How many people have your actions damaged? How many people do you see when you close your eyes every night and wish that everything was all right?
And then realize that before those other people can drain the poison from their systems enough to meet you halfway, yours has to be gone first.
My estranged daughter is absolutely livid that in a post I posted a picture that included her from her sister's wedding seven years ago. Honestly, I didn't think anything of it. Personal blog, personal picture. We haven't talked in a few years--her choice, which I respect enough to abide by. The first communications I've had from her in all that time were the messages I got from her today. So I removed the picture and my comments about both my daughters in deference to her anger.
Which is fine. Phantom pain is fleeting, but all-encompassing while you're feeling it.
So why am I telling you all about this? Because I think it's important that you understand who I am and how I became this way before I pass along this--
They say you can never go home again. That a bridge once burned is destroyed forever. That some things are unforgivable. But in the end, the ones who cannot forgive are the ones who hurt the worst. My mother didn't talk to hers for twenty-five years. I didn't talk to my mother for fifteen years. My daughter hasn't talked to me in three years. I have to ask myself why four generations of women in the same family have had the same problem.
The answer's simple--we are all the same woman. Different problems, different talents, different choices but ultimately sharing that same black or white, no gray mentality. When you get right down to it, that's a scary, scary thought. That why I made a concerted effort to stop with the ultimatums-issuing kind of relationships because obviously that's been an issue in my family. And no, it's not genetics. I was adopted. So somehow, it's an environmental trigger that has created this maelstrom--these phantom pains that are agonizing and never seem to heal.
Don't let your phantom pain continue to exist. Accept responsibility for your part in those toxic relationships. And then let the other half come to their own conclusions in their own way. And if they don't?
Keep moving forward instead of torturing yourself needlessly. Because for some reason, it's always the minutiae that gets things flared up--not because they're important, but because they are easier to deal with than the reality.
My door is always open. My phone is always going to be unblocked to you. I will always answer your call or return it as soon as I am able. My world is always open to you. Think about what I've said.
I love you. Always.
Time to let that poison drain away.