As I sped through the edits and restructuring I had to do for my book, I felt rising anger as I, yet again, dove deep into the actions of my parents. I went from 11 chapters, to 30 chapters, and cut a significant amount out. I made sure their accomplishments and skills were not highlighted because the book is not about who they are. The book is about my truth, the lewd, uncomfortable, dark, and heavy truth. The truth they don’t want me to share. I scraped out and burned the parts that give them an excuse, or show my own fawning response trying to make a reappearance.
As I flipped through my baby album, looking for some missing pictures I have of my child self, I felt that protective anger surging within me. I read, in my mother’s own words and writing, just how little she thought of me. The older I got, the more the descriptions had to do with what I could do and give her and my dad. I still remember how she chose horrible pictures of one of my first piano recitals. And when I cried over how bad the pictures were, she punished me, shaming me that my feelings didn’t matter to her.
I look at that last picture below, I do not remember this moment anymore. I do know that it was right before my mother was diagnosed with cancer and I had to grow up….all the way to an early adulthood. I had to take over the house because my dad was incapable of being giving. Both of my parents, my mother begrudgingly, praised me for my work. They celebrated the fact that they had forced me even deeper into the role of the family’s maid, and oh look how well Maeve did it!
My anger is a protective anger because I look back on my younger self and mourn for how much was ripped from them. Just when I’m low-key questioning that all of these things actually happened to me, my body, my spirit, my younger selves all clamor otherwise. I see the evidence in the way my body and face are frozen in my 8th birthday picture, and the way my hands are anxiously twisting in my lap. I vividly remember that dinner, I remember asking my dad not to sit with me, and still being forced to do it.
I remember the day that picture was taken of me in a bright pink t-shirt. I remember how horribly dysphoric I felt that day, and how left out I felt when all of the other kids went running off and I was left standing there unsure of what I was supposed to do. I didn’t fit with my peers, I still don’t, and I didn’t belong with the adults. I existed in a limbo that burned hole after hole in my soul; holes that let all of the tears pour out. My mother had made me wear that outfit that day, and I did so sobbing. She insisted I tuck my shirt in and I felt so outside of my body. I got a stern talking to later that day from my dad too. I was reprimanded for making my mother’s life difficult.
I remember when my mother decided it was easier to cut off all my ringlets rather than teach me how to take care of my hair. I can still hear her laughter as I sat in that chair under my dad’s hands, watching my beloved hair drop to the ground around me. I dashed to the mirror after he was done, and just sobbed as I felt the intense dysphoria of not being able to recognize myself in that mirror. My brain checked out after that moment. I remained painfully dissociated for a year or two until my hair grew back in and I felt I could see myself again.
And my mother laughed at my tears. And I feel the anger of my adult self wanting to flatten her for what she did to me. As I prepare to shift my instagram account to public, I know there is a risk of either of my parents finding it. And you know what? I relish the idea of them coming at me. I am not the malleable and innocent little person anymore who they abused for years and years of my life. Yesterday was the 12 year anniversary of the day my dad decided he was done with me, and kicked me out. I am so proud of who I am now, and I know what I am capable of. I know what I will not tolerate and what I have so much empathetic tolerance for.
I am also preparing to begin a heavy research project, that will most likely end up with me beginning college classes. As I look this dream of mine in the eyes, I am relieved that my mother no longer has a sway over me and can steal this one too. I experienced a rather intense aptitude test a few weeks ago. I heard her voice throughout taking the test, her reminders that I am worthless and do not have any natural skills or gifts. Thus when I sat down with the advisor to go over the results, I was floored when she told me that not only scored very highly in several unique and rare areas, the careers that are then closely associated with those gifts are things I have dreamed of doing almost half my life. I am so starkly aware of how many things I tried to explore as a child that my mother made sure to completely stomp out of me. I am aware that this is a dream that she never touched because I never spoke it out loud. And I am grateful to my past selves for having the awareness to protect this precious dream.
The anger still burns, and I no longer try to push it down. My younger selves, those little ones above, deserve to have had someone to fight for them. And I will be the one who restores their voices and integrates our lessons into my body.