I’ve been struggling with the idea of writing this post for a while. I had to wait until I was in the right frame of mind to do it. I’m not sure I’m there still, but I can’t hold the words back any longer.
For me, writing is therapy. I can work through things via my fictional characters and worlds that I can’t work through in the real world for one reason or another. And strong emotions, at least for me, are a great source of creativity. They serve a purpose.
I also realize that strong emotions, particularly anger, can be destructive.
I know a lot of people who go through tragedies – divorce, death of loved ones, the loss of a job and a way of life – and use anger to get them past the worst of it so they can deal.
But what happens when you have a deep well of anger that doesn’t have any place to go? That doesn’t have an outlet? That, I strongly feel, is when your emotions can wreak havoc on your health. That whole body/mind connection new age gurus tend to go on about. It’s real, I think, and the theory that if you don’t deal with your emotions they’ll come out somehow, whether that’s cancer, anxiety, blood pressure, what have you, is a solid one.
I think that’s part of what’s going on with me right now. I just spent the night at the local “spa” (hospital) in observation for extremely high blood pressure and a rapid heart rate. I don’t think the stress of this anger I’m dealing with was a direct cause, but I know it contributed. It’s the slip of paper under the foundation of me, a slip of paper that’s been lit on fire. And I don’t know what to do with that inferno.
I have a very complicated family history. Very complicated. Lots of family strife and envy over who owns what, lots of grief and heartache over loss and death, and petty jealousies abound. It’s a Southern drama that, if I wrote about it, most people would think it had to be fiction.
Let me stop here and say that I don’t like drama in my day-to-day life. I like calm, focus, level-headed and consistent behavior. I like my drama in my movies, books, and television shows. Period. And a few years ago, I decided to stop letting the drama into my life. Want to show up at my doorstep crying about how unfair life is? Don’t bother. Put your big-girl or boy panties on and deal with it. Want to pull me in and get me to join up on your fight against what you perceive to be an injustice against you? Tough shit. Not interested. I have no patience or tolerance for the whole victim mindset that I grew up surrounded by. We’re all adults now, responsible for our own lives. Our own happiness or misery. We are not ruled by some slight that happened forty years ago. You, me, how we embrace today and tomorrow. That’s what determines our fate. The past needs to stay in the past, where it belongs. It’s done. Let it be. I’ll support you when and where I can, but I will not enable you and I will not participate in your twisted dance. I am, quite simply, done.
Ah, what a relief!
For me, part of letting go of things was coming to terms that I didn’t have the ideal childhood. I was surrounded by drama, surrounded by illness, and I was forced to be an adult in ways that never should have happened. My childhood, in a very tangible way, was stolen from me, and I had to learn to deal with that. No use crying over spilt milk, you know? Well, in actuality there was some crying, but then it was time to pick up and move on. So that’s what I did. And life got better.
But then recently a funny thing happened. Yeah, not funny in a ha-ha way. Funny in a sad, tragic, disgusting way. I learned that most everything I’d grown up believing about the people around me was flat wrong. And not just wrong as in “oops, that was a mistake” but wrong in a way that hurt me.
I was kept away from certain people while I was growing up. I was told things about these people – not specific things but nebulous, generalized statements about these people that made me not question too closely why they weren’t in my life. It was easier for everyone concerned if we didn’t look too closely at that. And as someone who didn’t want to make ripples, I went along.
If I had been allowed to explore this other world that I was kept away from, it might have made a real difference in my life. I might have been a happier person, a happier, more emotionally secure child growing up. I might not have felt so damned alone. I might have had real support, instead of the fake support that hid petty jealousies.
People, that’s incredibly hard for me to deal with.
I’m trying to let go of that resentment and anger. I’m trying to forgive the people who perpetuated the lies, the people who kept me from having that chance for happiness. Not because of some grand religious belief but because I know I need to let it go for my own sanity. But it is oh, so hard. To know how miserable I was as a child, how alone I felt, and to know that it could have been different… but it wasn’t because of erroneous beliefs? Because of self-righteous, petty jealousies? I can’t begin to tell you how that feels.
Now that I’ve come to know these people I was separated from, know them as an adult, my entire perspective of my childhood and my “family” has changed. Everything I was ever told, all the dire warnings and words of caution that were expressed to keep me from reaching out weren’t true. Weren’t even close to being true. Not about who I was kept from. You know that old saying about how we project our feelings onto others? Yeah. Well. Turns out that the very things I was cautioned against? It was my own family being described. Not the people I was kept from. Was it malicious, this deflection of the truth? For some yes, for some no. That doesn’t make it better or right.
The people I’m around now, they don’t want anything from me. They don’t see me as a means to an end. They couldn’t care less how much money I have, how many assets I have. Oh, it’s not some idealized relationship, no. But what I’m worth on paper is the least of their concerns with regards to me. Whereas with most people in my family, that’s their primary concern.
If these people now associate with me, it isn’t because they want to know what’s in it for them. It’s because they want to be in my company. And while I’d find it nearly impossible to ask them for help, if I had to, if worse came to worst, I know they’d help me if they could. Not monetarily (which I wouldn’t expect) but emotionally. Because that’s where it matters – in the emotions. I can’t say I believe that about the people I grew up with. As a matter of fact, I don’t. I’ve been in need too many times and they’ve looked the other way because it was easier for them or didn’t benefit them.
My definition of family is negative now. I still refer to my maternal lineage as my family, but that’s not a good thing. Not everyone on that side of my family tree is bad or evil or anything approaching it. But how I see them? That vision is tainted now. So much of what I was told was wrong, and it wasn’t told out of any desire to protect me. It was told out of a desire to protect what I had, what I represented. And I’m having a very hard time letting go of my resentment and anger because of that. It’s going to be a long time before I can look at my childhood without this shadow being on it.
I don’t know how this newfound realization and emotions will come to play out in my writing. I’m sure they will. Something so big has to influence my creativity. It’s too significant a thing to be ignored. And I don’t know how or if this will come to play out in my life. I have no intention of confronting my family about this, primarily because it wouldn’t do a damned bit of good, would stir up all that drama I’m so revolted by, and isn’t worth the energy I’d waste on it. I’ll make my own decisions going forward. I don’t want to hear “Oh, you don’t understand that how it is now isn’t how it was,” or “You’re only seeing what you want to see; the truth is really what I’m telling you.” I’m not that stupid anymore. Not that naive and innocent, believing what someone tells me because they “only want what’s best for me.” My eyes are opened and there is no putting that genie back in the bottle. That area of my life is not open for discussion. It’s mine, mine alone, and it’s none of their damned business.
I hesitate to even post this. It’s personal, not professional, and also because I don’t want to risk the drama it could stir up. Drama I refuse to participate in. But I can’t hold on to the words any longer. I can’t keep stifling how I feel, keeping a lid on the anger. I have to let it out. I have to let it go. And then I have to go on, to keep on keeping on. After all, that’s what’s important – the journey. Not the past. I just wish everyone understood that.