I’m home, by myself, in bed. Feeling the week wash out of me like the tide. I curl into my cocoon while the world goes on without me, and do the only things that make sense right now; sleep, think, and write. My daughter does the same within me, sleeps, stirs, dances, dreams.
All her great grandmas have now died. My Nana lived overseas so I won’t be able to attend the funeral. I sent her a letter in the last days to tell her that she is important to me and I loved her. I haven’t seen or spoken to her for many years. I lost all the relationships with my father’s side of the family when I lost my relationship with him. Family tears apart down bloodlines and homeless with my mother, I had made my choice and thrown my lot in, not with sides but with individuals I loved and knew and felt responsible for. All the broader connections of family in my life, fragile and stretched by distance, by my own illness, by lack of understanding around sexuality, by communication being filtered through people who told only the stories they wanted heard… All of them fell away and I plunged into bitter isolation and loss, alone in our tragedy, focused on survival.
So many things divide us. Across the chasm, neither of us reach. There’s too much time passed, too many questions, too much pain, too many bad memories and bitterness and assumptions and loss. I had to dig into secrets and history to figure out the shadows cast forward that shaped our ruin. I had to run from the boxes assigned me to grow into, far too small and the wrong shape for me, far too silent and powerless and accepting of the stories I’d been told about myself and the world. I couldn’t grow within family, within school, within those friendships or that world I’d inherited. I was stunted, lonely, and dying. There was no future for me.
Out in the grief numbed solitude after my world burned, I wrote new rules, told new stories, learned to look at the world out of my own eyes. Grew more tender, more harsh, more strange. The roles assigned me fell away like so much shed skin. My pain and loneliness nearly sank me. I rebuilt very slowly, turning around my damaged valves: I am no longer grateful to anyone for attention: it is a privilege to get close to me. Alone in my caravan I repeated the words over and over to myself. Only letting the special ones in. Breaking all the old rules, as over and over as they crept back into my life. Mourning everyone I had ever loved and doubting everything I had ever believed in and sacrificed for.
Rose, Star and myself are in family therapy. It’s been a good experience. I joked last time that each of us has so much painful history with the idea of family, that we can be badly triggered about ‘family’ merely sitting in a room by ourselves and thinking about it, let alone when we try to relate to each other directly!
I have rebuilt so much. I have trouble feeling it, trusting it. The first two friendships I grew close enough that we told each other we loved each other both abruptly disconnected from me and they’ve never spoken to me since. My grief was intense. I live in a whole world that’s triggered by the idea of family.
I had a dream of one day taking my family overseas and visiting all these strangers and asking the hard questions and speaking the hard truths and finding and giving grace, freedom and connection. Some days I feel strong that way, no longer small and frightened, that I can lead us in a new direction, I can take back what I’ve lost and bridge the gap.
Other days my own bitterness swamps me. I was alone and no one reached out to me. Or the old roles hang waiting for me – submissive, grateful for scraps, secretive, and wondering what I did wrong to not be loved better, how I could change myself to be embraced. A child among giants. Who do I hate for the pain? The wheel spins and today it is me, tomorrow it might be you. There’s enough pain for all of us. My dreams burned down and body fell apart and I was homeless and did not ask because I could not bear your silence and yet that silence still rings in my ears and I feel the loss like a missing limb. All those people who came to my wedding, that joyful throng, all silent at my divorce, at my poverty and disability. I went alone to the court. I slept alone in the shelter.
Sometimes the distance simply overwhelms me. Blood might connect us but these people are strangers to me. What could they possibly owe me, or I them? Why would they thank me for disruption? Let them be, accept the loss, move on. Build a new tribe and love them instead. People I can share with, even pain. The numbness still haunts me. I try to feel the hugs, on good days I feel connection, I believe that in a few years time these people will still be here, I believe they genuinely care about me and don’t merely feel obligated, I believe I can be loved and also free of tyranny and abuse. There are not very many good days like that. Mostly I keep my focus more narrow – this day, this week. I hope rather than trust. The hand that reaches out hides the tremor. I love from a heart that has scars I can’t heal and memories I can’t forget.
My Nana has died. The woman I’ve been likened to all my childhood, who’s sicknesses and allergies I seem to have inherited along with her creativity, her predilection for grand projects, her impulsive generosity. Almost everything I know about her is through stories. I can’t remember the colour of her eyes, the touch of her hand, or the sound of her voice. We are all only stories, in the end. She was part of my old life, before all the fires and loss and freedom. I’ll get no answers from her now, no absolution. That broken circle stays forever broken. While I try to live my life with some integrity and joy, people get only older, the old shapes of things changes, rain erodes the soil and land falls into the sea. While I debate the timing of the tearing off of old bandages, the breaking of promises and the gift of forgiveness, time passes and each of grows older in our own mirrors. While I wonder if I’m strong enough yet, wise enough yet, while I doubt my motivations and interrogate my impulses, the world spins on, out of kilter, slowly into darkness. One by one, they will die, with or without me in their lives. Those stories will end.
Oh, little frog, what a broken world you inherit. I’ve been far stronger than I ever thought possible and your nest is a safe one. But not strong enough to repair all the harm or bind back together all the brokenness. Three women sleep in your house and nightmares stalk each of us. We each love you and we are each wounded. I don’t have the answers and I don’t understand life. But I love you fiercely and I want you to be free to grow. So I keep growing too. Here in my grief, my stolen grief for a woman I barely knew, here in my bed with my cat on a cold winter day when the week of doing has finally ebbed to a day of being and following only the strange impulses of my still wild heart… Here I hold you close and try to weave the stories of your family and your roots into a shape you can grasp and grow with, to honour the dead and the living with truth and grace, to show both the beauty and the shadow, to neither privilege nor ignore blood or the other bonds between people. Precious daughter. There is family here waiting for you, ready to love you. Let that love not be a cage, and let it not dissolve in the dawn. Let it be stronger than the pain.