Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tar on the Floor

It has taken me exactly eighteen years to be able to admit to myself, let alone anyone else, that I might feel any sort of anger towards my Mother. I was sitting in my Friday Counsellor's office, at my usual weekly appointment, when suddenly and without warning I heard the words: “I hate my Mother” coming from my mouth. “I didn’t say that. No, no, no, no, no. That was someone else. I take it back.” But once it was out there and the tears poured down my face it just sat there, what I had said, like a giant lump of tar in the middle of the floor. I just kept looking at the tar, trying to "stay" with the emotions that where there, overwhelming me. Then my time was up. I paid my money and left.

That was just before Christmas 2007, when TRD was still here, still loving me in all his tattooed glory.

I remember standing at the bus stop shaking. Shaking so hard – those bones, again they rattled inside my skin. I just needed to concentrate on getting on the bus and getting home. TRD had left the night previously, so there was no one here when I came home. I just sat on my couch, staring out of the window, hardly daring to breathe. Someone might hear me. ‘Nothing’ was what I felt. The same feeling is here now. Right now. As soon as I think of that I am back there, here now. My body is gone, nothing between feet and hands. I need to pee, badly. My bottom lip is stuck out, dry and kinda sticking to my top lip. “Not going to lick them, or separate them. Just want to keep them shut. Tight.” [Shakes head] “Never know what else might come out of there if I open them.” Back, more cowering than a Dowager’s Hump - implanted into the cock of the couch. “Heavy” My eyes want to close. I have obviously reached dangerous territory. Shut down mode. My head doesn’t like it. What I am saying now?

No, no, no, no, no. The blanket stare looks at letters appearing in front of me on the screen, wondering where they are coming from. Clever thing those hands that are coming from sleeves I recognise, they are making letters into words and words into lines. Coloured in yellow so I can see them. The Fray; laughing at me as they stutter, somehow gaily through a report on saving lives. Round and round they go. Stuck on a repeat that I can’t change. A tough old day today. A day for listing. Listing everything I have done, just so I can see that today is different from yesterday. Yesterday. The day I spent sleeping. That was Monday. Counting backwards. Next Monday I shall be thirty-one. Thirty-bloody-one. Boy did I not expect to be here then, now. Here. “You Are Here”. Yes, I am. Stuck. “No. Shut up. Not stuck” Moving forward. Yeah. Moving forward. My lips still won’t separate. And my bladder hurts.

I worked out that you cannot compare your misery; eye cannot compare my misery, to that of others. It ain’t a fair comparison. It will never work. My depression or doom or suicidal thing-a-mies (I thought about swallowing all my medication the other morning. I think my head was playing tricks on me. It was six am – De Niro, he stayed awake too long too – and look what happened to him. No wasn't him - the other one; Al. Poor bastard. Poor me. Maybe.) Do not a dent make, on the problems of the world, and try to rationalise with those examples of poverty, war and evil horrors - it does nothing but cause further pain and guilt. You have to be selfish. Save yourself first and save others later.

"Wow, I should really listen to my own advice sometimes"

God, I need a piss. Eyes, slam. “You know why this is happening now, don’t you?” Door closes. “Because I was going to write about last Thursday and Friday and then Sunday" and “SHE doesn’t want me to: "Nah, that’s bollocks – I don’t want to – or my body doesn’t. Doesn’t want to re-live the horrific so it says "SHHH!". Librarian-like. "Just for now - eh?" But they, they do still sing. “Sit down”, they say. “I am”, I say.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Where Was Switzerland When I Needed Him/Her/It?

Parents, on many levels, seem to think that it is the material provisions they make for you that prove their love for you. How many times did I hear, “…the sacrifices I have made for you…” or “…we opened our home to you…” I have seen the frustrated tears at first hand: the shouting, shaking parent, yelling in my face that I have driven them to breaking point with all that I need and require and have done and am most likely, to do. What am I supposed to feel – grateful that I am obviously so expensive, demanding and needy; or guilty that they have sacrificed everything to make my life what it was? I don’t know – I am asking you to tell me. Seriously.

There is that old chestnut: “I didn’t ask to be born”. Teenagers like throwing that little gem back and forth all the time during the messy years of hatred and monosyllabic torture. I’m sure I said it - when I could think of no better retort. But the fact of the matter is that I didn’t ask – no one does, we are born and then we have a life to preserve, like it or lump it. Many of us don’t ever get to grips with life and forever question our reason for living, so, is it fair for parents to throw back the decisions they made in our faces, when and while we are children?

As an adult I have an entirely different relationship with my parents than I did when I was small – of course I do. I have lived and loved and suffered my own mistakes, made my own decisions and made my own bed that I now lie in. Sometimes my relationship with my mother is more of a friendship than one of parent and child – other times, I can be the parent - and when I am sick and on bad days, I am most certainly as lost and confused as a newborn and all I want is my Mam. I respect my family for the people that they are today, I enjoy their company, we laugh, we share, we are interested; we are supportive and we care, all four of us, for each other – there is more of a balance than there has ever been and I can give back what I receive.

As an adult, I can look back at the 'general overview' of the hardships my mother faced, bringing up two young children on her own, when my father refused to pay Child Support and we had nowhere to live so we slept on mattresses, on my Grandfather’s floor, and I take my hat off to her. My adult response to the story – if I remove myself from it entirely – is one of, “How the fuck are you still standing?” But I am not, unfortunately, a friendly onlooker listening to a friends’ tale, I am the daughter that lived through the terrifying. It is this battle of objectivity, versus personal experience, that leaves me guilty, sore and oftentimes beside myself with grief. I am conflicted by the relationship that I have with my Mother now, which has taken us thirty years to get to and my relationship with the memories I have of me, her and us - then. I am proud of my mother and how we stand together today. She is a good, good person. She isn’t the person she was then, and when I talk about the Then Mother, I am talking about that woman that is in the ground with ghosts of her fractured children.

I am quite clear in my knowledge that my father created the biggest shit storm known to man - for us after he left - I know that because I have met him. I know what he is like. He is a scary man, a controlling man. The problem is the “he said, she said” that happens when divorces become dirty. To this day I do not know who did what to whom and I wish there had been an un-biased, third party, Swiss observer that had recorded the whole damn thing so that I could see exactly who did what when. I will never know the full, unadulterated truth of my shaky beginnings. My father still tells us (well he now tells my sister, as I still cannot talk to him) about this folder that he has, that has “the truth” in it and that he will show us Ms. Pandora, "when the time is right". I wanna see that old red file. I want see what he’s got to say. Not, that I think it will change anything, but because I want to know what he thinks he has.

But there was no Switzerland, nope, just our reality. Or my reality, because I cannot and do not wish to speak for my sister as I do not know her experience. We can be a talkative bunch these days.

To be continued... "Oh I bet you're glad about that - huh?" "Over-freakin'-joyed I am" "Thought so"

Monday, April 14, 2008

"You,Took Me"

The courts said that I was old enough at twelve, to decide with whom I wanted to live with - my mother or my father.

You can’t have sex in the UK until you are sixteen-years-old, or smoke - you can’t drink until you are eighteen, or get married. But at twelve, still a child, not even ‘officially’ a teenager – you can make life-altering decisions that affect you, your parents, siblings and anyone connected with your family. When I asked my mother "why" she allowed me to make “the decision” to live with my father (I used their language later on – I had no choice, there was no point in saying: “But YOU, took me” – that was irrelevant) she said – “You wanted to. And the courts said you were old enough…” I wasn’t old enough, and my so-called “decision” had nothing at all to do with me. I was a victim (I hate that word) of circumstance – a sitting duck. But they won’t tell you that. I was a twelve-year-old that wrecked one family by leaving them, nearly killing my mother in the process (as my sister loves reminding me) and then wrecked another when I left them too.

“You’d better say your goodbye’s somewhere else before I say something I’ll regret” - one neighbour told me when I went to say goodbye to my best friend – her daughter - as I cried hysterically in her kitchen. Nobody cared that I was terrified and that I didn’t want to go – that what I’d said had been said in anger and I'd regretted it as soon as my Mum said "OK then". Nobody offered me/us a ‘time out’ so we could all calm down and talk things over calmly in the morning. Mum didn’t "order me out of her sight" until we both calmed down, (I don't actually remember me being angry, which seems strange, as I remember every other intricate detail of that day, its burned into my memory and stinks like an old, dead corpse) or suggest we all went to family mediation, or that I saw a counsellor because I had said I wanted to live with a crazy person and that obviously wasn't 'normal'. She didn’t phone family for help or send me to my room. She just put me in the car and drove. Mum knew my father was insane, (I didn't, but soon would) but she still thought the answer to the problem that was me - was to take me to him.

She was tired of fighting with me. My actions and behaviour, as I’ve been told repeatedly, were the very reason I was taken to live with my father. My mother tells me now that she couldn’t listen to me telling her I hated her for a moment more. My sister tells me now, how she used to tell our mum that she hated her all the time and how difficult she was then. She was never taken away. I was angry because something was so very wrong in my head, but they couldn’t fix that wrong because it was a wrong of their making. A wrong they didn't want to admit to as two insanely fighting, furiously angry, divorcing parents. So, I was being taken and that was the end of that. “I’m taking your sister to live with her father”, my mother told my sister as my stuff was put into the car. By then I was silent because my mother didn’t fight for me. She just made me get in the car and ignored my pleas to be allowed to stay.

I was twelve-years-old and I have never felt so alone in all my life. That was the day I became completely estranged from my family - both sides of it (you should have seen the faces of the stunned family I was delivered to, when I arrived on their doorstep). That was definitely the day I knew nobody wanted me and that I was disposable. She still tells me it was the hardest thing she ever had to do in her whole life, but if you ask her the events of the day - she can't remember - "because so many bad things were happening at that time" and have happened since? She can't remember the day she abandoned her own daughter, but her daughter, she remembers every horrifying second.

He Said, She Said

My Mum and I were rooting through her old clothes drawers, last weekend while I was there. We were looking for something – I don’t know what.

They were the same drawers that I remember poking about in when I was a kid and my Mum catching me. I remember being so, utterly shocked by her roar, as she came up the stairs towards me, and couldn't imagine what on earth I had done that was so wrong - apart from finding a pretty necklace that I had wanted from the Avon ladies’ catalogue? She was screaming blue, bloody murder at me, “Don’t you DARE look through my things!”

What was so wrong with an eight or nine year old (if that), playing on the floor in her mam’s bedroom and digging around in old scarves? Maybe it was because of the necklace, or maybe because there was a picture of her on her first wedding day to my father, wrapped in an old shirt of his in there too (not that I knew about that on this particular day). I do remember feeling really bloody guilty though - my mum seemed so upset – maybe even disgusted, at what I had done.

I have often thought that I felt constantly guilty as a child, and the other day I found examples of that guilt in those bloody, old drawers. I found a small bundle of letters from me, to my mum, all written in various guises of carefully scripted, transitional letters with e’s that looked liked capital letters and r’s like v’s; I almost expected love hearts for the dots above the i’s - but I was obviously trying to be grown up by that point. Stylish. Seriously.

“ Dear Mum,

I’m sorry for being selfish – I do try, but it never seems to work out the way I intend it to.
I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me, recently and in the past and I do love you very [doubly underlined] much.

I’ll try much harder to be part of the family.

Lots of love… "

There was a Winne the Pooh illustration, hand-drawn in the corner of the page.

There was also another letter dated Friday 16 October, 1992 – written at 9:45PM. That letter was five-pages-long. (I still can’t write a short letter, email or text message to this day) The letter was written two years after I returned home. It began:

“Dear Mum,
You said you wanted to speak to me about the situation that I’m in at the moment with Dad…”

The letter went straight back in the envelope. It would have been my biological father I was referring to. But I couldn’t get past the first sentence before baulking. So the letter lies in my house in its envelope – maybe I’ll read it later. Or maybe I’ll flush them both down the toilet after pissing all over them.

I kidnapped those (my) letters five days ago. I couldn’t leave them in her drawer. I had no idea why she had kept them. We had obviously been in a state of conflict at the time each of the letters had been written, so why would you want to keep memories of that? Maybe she liked it when I apologised and repented (for leaving her) and saying that I would try harder to fit in with the family - I certainly don’t do that now. Now I blame her for abandoning me on an abusers doorstep. She blindly ignored my pleading and begging and drove the three-hour journey in autopilot. Hysterical begging, begging her not to make me go and live with him. Even though I’d said I wanted to - I was just an angry kid. I was twelve. We were in the middle of a shit life, had been for years and years and I was angry and scared and kicking against my “evil parents” who just fought and yelled at each other with such hate, venom and destruction. I’ll never forget her turning and walking away that night, leaving me standing there. She was walking away from me – because she couldn’t listen to it anymore.

There were other letters in those drawers – letters that have nothing to do with me directly, but affect me greatly on a larger scale. Letters concerning the tales of "who did what to whom" when we were in Divorce Land. That was a terrible land. Don’t ever visit there. Especially if you are a pawn in a very grand game or a mouse sat beside a very fat cat. If you must venture through the murky swamps to that island, don’t go without a state appointed guardian who looks out for you and you alone. One that comes with a life belt, whistle, stun gun and an exit plan if possible.

I can still smell the stale smell of that courthouse. Nineteen years later, and I could draw that waiting room from memory. Dressed in my culottes with a handbag - a handbag. The floorboards creaked under ridged, charcoal grey office carpeting. I sat beside my Father in a side corridor on a plastic chair. I went to lunch with my Father and his lawyer. I wasn’t allowed to go near my Mum, sister or step dad who were all sitting in the same restaurant. I wasn’t allowed to speak to them, look at them or breathe in their general direction. The wooden pawn child. I could have been anything – a piece of lint he had once given her by accidentally touching her on his way past – he didn’t care, he just wanted to take something away from her, anything. It just so happened that I had a pulse, but I doubt that actually mattered to him. I just wanted to run to my Mum and get them to take me back – run away with me and hide from the angry man that wanted to make me his. But I couldn’t tell her that, because I had hurt her too much by leaving, and I thought she had given up on me. Or did I? No wonder I kept writing letters.

All those people in that family are dead now. I stand over their grave sometimes and look down at them. No one has covered the coffins with soil yet. Just four big holes, side by side. People remember that family and shake their heads knowingly. They could never have survived.

I have gone to great pains with my Friday Counsellor to get through the difficulties of feeling isolated and different from my family and there those letters are, booming like a loudhailer of the past I am trying so desperately to run away from. Screaming out my "GUILTY!" verdict for all to hear. Nobody missed the yelling or the booing. Nobody. You all heard it – right?

I hate those fucking letters and the way that girl wrote "MUM" on the envelope. They should have been buried with her.