Thursday, November 18, 2004

The "Real" Me, otherwise known as Hey, Fuck Off

I am somewhat flabbergasted by my conversation with my aunt last night. It appears this relationship is going to get better before it gets worse. No wait. Reverse that. I don't know why I was expecting some big catharsis, I always feel like a cement truck ran me over after I talk to her, there was no reason to expect differently this time. But I think it was marginally even worse than usual.

The topic, as always, was Why Don't You Tell Me Every Little Thing That You Are Hiding Deep Down In Your Soul? Her points are these:
1. I put up a wall and no one is allowed in.
2. I appear to have multiple personalities, and no one knows which is the "real" me.
3. My family wants to "help" me and they are hurt that I don't allow it.
4. Don't I want to learn from the people who knew her what my mother was like?

For once I really did make my best effort at giving her legitimate answers for these concerns. She seemed to feel better; I felt like I'd been mind-raped. I've always preferred writing to speaking. It gives me the time to formulate cogent points, and I think I come across much more clearly. It's much better than being on the spot when someone asks you "Why do you do this?" I do strive for honesty, despite what my aunt chooses to believe, and I like for my answers to be as considered and complete as possible. I can't do that on the phone; I am limited to what I can come up with in the amount of time allotted before my thoughtful silence becomes uncomfortable for the other person. So, despite the fact that I really did try, she still didn't get the full story she was looking for. What follows is the real answers to the enigma that is me. Think of it as a sort of crib-sheet - if I do something that appears on the surface to make no sense, even though you think you know me, refer back to these lines and the answer should become clear. If not, then I'm probably just drunk.

1. I put up a wall, and no one is allowed in. This is true, but not for everyone. There are actually a great many people who get in, you are just not one of them. The reason some people get past the door and some people do not is that I don't like what some people do once they get past the door. I am a great believer in the concept of privacy. I like being an American because privacy is something granted to me in The Bill of Rights, which I deeply appreciate. Privacy is rad. I revel in it. Sometimes though, I want to share something from my treasure trove with the people I care about. Here's the thing though - the sharing of my feelings/hopes/dreams/goals is NOT, I repeat, NOT an invitation for YOU to share with me your opinion on them. My mental bouncers have a tendency to throw people out when they do that. You cannot bribe them to let you back in. Trust me, when I want your opinion on something, I will explicitly ask you for it. Ask the people who are allowed in. They know I'm looking for their opinion because I start my statement with "Let me get your opinion on this...." If you have not heard that phrase, I guarantee I am not looking for your opinion.

I have attempted, on many occasions, to share with my aunt and others some of the things that float in my head. Every single time, without exception, open season was declared on my psyche. I was met with a barrage of condescension and disapproval. Even without speaking; often it took only a withering look to make me feel tiny and sad and so very very wrong. And those were over little things, they were ice-breaker attempts. If I can't share that stuff without an emotional beatdown, you are not likely to make any progress toward learning about the big things that are really driving me.

Finally, thoughts and feelings are not like math. There is not a right or wrong answer, they just are. And it's not my wall. Every time I see that look or hear that comment, you are only adding another brick. If you really want the wall to come down, you should stop mixing mortar.

2. I appear to have multiple personalities, and no one knows which is the "real" me. This implies a disparity where none exists. They are all me. Sad Amber, Funny Amber, Quiet Amber, Drunk Amber, Spiritual Amber, Jackass Amber, Happy Amber, Pit-of-despair Amber, are all facets of the same individual. Whatever you are seeing is how I am feeling at the time. I am not cunning enough to pretend one personality while secretly feeling another. I'm good at a lot of things, but I can't move my right arm clockwise and my right leg counterclockwise at the same time. Different situations call for different actions, variety is the spice of life, if you're happy and you know it clap your hands - whatever you want to call it, all people don't always act exactly the same way all of the time. None of it is fake. All of it is real. For that matter, all of it is valid (see "feelings are not math", above). I promise you, I am not trying to fool you any more or less than I am trying to fool myself.

3. My family wants to "help" me and they are hurt that I don't allow it. No. This is why I pay a psychiatrist. When I am blue, I go to her office and ramble on for a while. I feel better about myself. I go about my life. The whole point of being in therapy is so that I can go out and enjoy the rest of my life and not have to dwell on all the bad things I don't like about myself. That behavior tends to be a downer at parties. I love my time with my family. It feels like home, because, well, it is. This is why, sometimes, on Christmas or one of the other gathering days, you might occasionally see me sitting at the end of the table, talking to no one, just watching everyone else interact with a kind of punch-drunk look on my face. Here is how I am feeling right then: Warm. Safe. Happy. Content. I love you guys; I love watching how much you love each other. It is the closest feeling to pure joy I ever have. I never want it to end. It is brand new and nostalgic at the same time. I am blessed. Therefore, I do not want it mired down in everyday junk that sucks. I do not want to play How Do Bad Things Make You Feel. It's not because you are not needed - you are. But I need you for the former stuff, not the latter. The former stuff is the stuff that gives me a reason to fight through the 360 or so days per year when nothing good happens to me.

Now. Apparently the general sentiment is you all want to be needed for both the joyous times and the bad times. That is ok, your feelings are not like math either. You are entitled to them. Having said that though, let me offer you this: Too Damn Bad. That's something you all are going to have to work through on your own. You are already meeting all the needs I need you to meet. I'm not going to pretend I have other needs for you guys to meet just because it will make you feel better. That's bullshit posturing. I'd like to tell you how sorry I am that I didn't turn out the way you planned, but I can't do that because I'm not actually sorry. I deal with things in the way that works best for me, and that's not always going to include you. This is the drawback to raising a child to be self-sufficient. I'm not trying to hurt you on purpose, but if this is something that bothers you, well guess what, you're going to get hurt. I wish it wouldn't sound so harsh, but it is what it is.

4. Don't I want to learn from the people who knew her what my mother was like?
Yes and no. What I really want, I mean really really really really want, is to have my mother here, and to have grown up knowing her, and to have an adult relationship with her, which I was too young to have when she died. This is obviously not possible, and I live with that fact every single minute of every day. That's my cross to bear. There is nothing any of you can tell me that could possibly illustrate for me what that would be like. What I definitely don't want is to sit down and have a volleying questions-and-answers about Lydia session with anyone. I want to learn about her anecdotally. Like if something happens that reminds you of something and you say "You know what your mom did once, see we were milking this goat...." I cherish that stuff. Please go ahead with that. But if you're sitting around waiting for me to come to the table and say "Tell me about my mother" you're going to be waiting a long time. That's not how I assimilate information. I need context. Context is everything.

Here's an example. I never really knew Grandpa Stan because of shit that went down way before I ever existed. So when he died I learned a lot of things that I never knew before. I learned that he went to Mass every day, that he prayed his rosary twice a day, that he raised Kevin and Kenny like his own sons, blah blah blah. The stuff that sticks in my head though, the stuff that makes me feel like I know him better in death that I did in life, are the anecdotal stories. Like sitting in the stands on senior night at the football game, watching someone else's parents stand up for his son. That's the real man there. Tell me that kind of stuff. Whenever you happen to think of it. There's not a right or wrong time.

And finally, remember this: kids are deeply, ridiculously perceptive. I am betting that I know way more about her than you think I know. There are many many things that I was there for that you were not. I was the only one home when the phone call came with the test results. I was the one that always got to style her way cool new curly hair when it grew back for that short while. I was the only one out of everybody in the world that got to be her daughter, even if it was only for a while. And I will always have those things. And it is good. So potentially, maybe I'm the one who should be telling all of you stories.


Nicole said...

You don't know me, I don't know you, but we share something in common, that wall. Its good to talk to your must trusted friends when you just need someone to listen, but sometimes I just want to sit outside on a beautiful day, watch the world go by, and forget every little problem. Your words went right to the heart, they touched me, and make me realize and appreciate what I sometimes take for granted and critize.

Anonymous said...

So it is what it is...but at the same time don't ever wonder why we might be distant. Tough to get close to something you don't know....... You can probably tell stories but I lived them too for I knew her much longer...lived with her in fact....watched her mother die...watched her die....was at her father's bedside when he took his last breath......don't feel like you have got the only copy in town of this story. So..... there is another who will have blank stares at the other end of the table but ...unfortunately seeing a closed door at your end, I gave up a long time ago trying to enter....the no vacancy / not welcome sign has been out loud and clear......

Im out! not sure if I can come back not sure if it would ever be worth the exhaustive effort. Not defending the victim of your blog just my perspective is all. The victim as I will call her can and will stand on her own two we have essentially been fucked off and will leave you alone...your serve.....

HipScraps said...

I discovered you blog through your 50 shades series and have begun to read you from the beginning today, because I really enjoy your writing voice. The last paragraph of this post had me in tears. perfectly said. I still have my mom, but I won't forever, and your words kind of make me want to actually get to know her, for reals. Thanks.