>>Mama\tI wrote an autobiographical essay a couple of days ago as part of my application to a PhD program. It started off with you and how you raised me. I said that you raised me well physically and encouraged me artistically, but that you abandoned me emotionally. I attributed that to your misunderstandings about yourself, love and self-worth as a concept.\tI know that there were probably many reasons for your confusion because there are many reasons for mine. I know that you were traumatized, because you allowed me to be traumatized. Your need for control is reflected in my need for control.\tI was scared of you, for you and more than anything – scared of your leaving. You left – if in fact you ever showed up in the first place. I spent most nights crying when I was little. That time that you dropped me off with your friends, and Aunt D and Uncle M had to come get me – that was you abandoning me. You told me so little – I was so in the dark about everything that I thought that it had all been planned out – or I couldn’t register my surroundings, or something. Knowing that now, I really wish you had stayed gone. Aunt D and Uncle M, for as much crap as you said about them, supported me and cared about who I am as a human. You did not have the capability. I’m 48 years old now and just seeing clearly.You told me once that you rejected me at birth – you didn’t want me. I understand that such a feeling can come from postpartum depression, but I feel as if it never changed. It’s like you just needed it to look like you wanted me. I felt like I was worth keeping as long as I was cute or could play piano for your friends – as long as the façade was in place. I feel that my “being worth keeping” had something to do with your unwillingness to look like a failed mother. You were always perfect-looking to other people and that was more important to you than anything. I know this because you gave that to me, and although it was expressed differently in me, it was there. Your pretending not to understand it infuriated me constantly and eventually became the voice in my head that keeps me from leaving the house. \tMy therapist asked me the other day why I give you a pass on your behavior when I don’t give it to myself or anyone else. Because you at least kept me alive, I guess, but really – you shouldn’t get a pass. You were a sentient being with a brain and you should have been trying to solve your problems instead of burying them in me. I was your secret keeper and your own personal liar. I felt like that was my place in life – the only value I had was based on how well I could keep things inside and put on a show for everyone else no matter what was being done to me. The most important thing is that you shouldn’t hear about it. I had to put on that show even when you were retaliating against me emotionally. I was the sole source of your misery, it seemed to me. The kicker is, I didn’t do a fraction of the things that you accused me of doing – and I was not the person you accused me of being. But I know it didn’t matter who I was, as long as you could use me to make yourself feel better - and that is an injustice that I took very personally.\tI met D when I was 36 and he was the first friend I’d ever had, and the only person I’d ever known with whom I could be honest. You did your best to drive a wedge between us – you failed. You failed because we both seek truth – both of us have become exhausted and angry from existing in other people’s lies. Neither of us is willing to accept it. We are both imperfect but reaching for something in our own way.\tAfter grad school I got a job at the VA. It was uninspiring and scary, but I talked myself into settling down in a job that was secure – just like you did. In fact it was your terrified voice in my head that told me to settle. How frustrating it must have been for you to work as a receptionist. Your mind was brilliantly capable of understanding world politics and you were artistic. You were just so very angry and whatever internal dialogues you had going; they took all the inspiration out of your life. You didn’t have to let that happen. You didn’t have to keep all those secrets. You could have been a little bit honest. I needed you to be. You would have been forgiven.\tWhen A was 6 months old, I had an epiphany. I suddenly saw in her that I was her protector and that we were both surrounded by lies. I couldn’t live with Vince anymore just because I was scared of surviving in the outside world. The idea that I could not survive outside of whatever sheltered environment I could manage to survive in, was the first big lie that I challenged. I realized then that you had raised me not to leave you. I felt like the baby elephant who is tied to a post with the biggest chains, making it impossible to fight its way out – by the time that elephant is big enough to break the chain and escape, they are tied up with a tiny string – the will to fight is broken – the idea of the chain is what lives on. I looked around for the chain that was holding me, and it turned out to be just an idea made of your fear.You told me once when I was young that mediocrity is the worst thing. You subscribed to a false dichotomy whereby you are either the best or just don’t try. What bullshit. I guess you were the best receptionist? Because of that patently untrue idea, I was scared to try, and eventually I was scared to talk, and eventually I was scared to be noticed, and eventually I was scared to leave the house.\tYou were definitely strong, but most certainly not fearless, and unfortunately, I don’t think you ever thought past your life into mine and into those of future generations. If you had, you might have seen that nothing could thrive in the fear that you nested in. I heard you when you told Aw to leave me alone and then did nothing to stop him. I heard you. You knew. When I confronted you with it at age 32 you deflected. How do you suppose that felt? I’ll tell you how it felt – it felt normal – it felt like what you do. I was not surprised. And then to be judged by you… Fuck. \tYou were unwilling to be seen as a failed mother… I’m unwilling to be a failed mother. It’s fine… I mean, humans hope the next generation is better than ours, but then we insist on judging them on our age-old experiences. I’ll get over your experiences too then. I’m strong enough and honest enough – how’s about that.\tI sit here still unclear about whether you wanted me to succeed at all – or did you want me to fail? Did you ever actually know how smart I am? I knew it when I was 5. What the hell did you make of that? How is it that I have always felt so fucking stupid? I find different answers at different moments. You wanted me to succeed because it would reflect well on you, but you didn’t want me to outshine you. You knew I was smart, but you gave me no outlet for it – again, I’m guessing because you had to be smarter. Really though. It’s like my childhood existed in a vacuum. No solid ground whatsoever. I couldn’t believe how much better things were at my friend’s houses. But I was terrified of their parents too. \tI’m going to list the things that bother me.0-7You lied – you said you were crying because you were happy – Papa had just diedYou told me never to lieYou made me call you mama instead of mommyI thought there was something true that I was too stupid to knowI thought I was mentally underdeveloped, and nobody wanted to tell meI was a performing monkeyYou took advantage of my kindnessYou let me cry alone in my roomYou didn’t talk to me for daysYou yelled at me about the spider and the orange juiceYou talked about death a lotI thought you were going to die every nightI thought you were going to kill meI thought Eric was going to kill me and where the fuck were you?You made me wear tights and dressesYou held a grudgeYou made me feel stupidWhy did I have to hug everyoneYou never told me anything true about my dadYou never knew how long it took me to fall asleepI couldn’t tell you the truth because you would be angryYou blindsided me constantlyYou shit-talked my friendsYou shit-talked everyoneYou made fun of that really nice doctor who cooked dinner for usWhere were you?8-12You got mad at me when I had my first period because it inconvenienced youYou humiliated me for not knowing things you should have taught meYou criticized me when I played piano – like, who the fuck…?You made jokes at my expense – about me and to meYou were bitter and nastyYou lied, lied and liedYou made me feel stupidYou didn’t like my friendsYou shit-talked Aunt D and Uncle MYou were jealousYou were unsupportiveYou screamed at me in the car and I couldn’t get awayI don’t know what you were mad at me about most of the timeYou treated me as if I was someone who I wasn’tYou pretended to care in front of other peopleYou weren’t careful whom you brought aroundYou couldn’t see my miseryYou never asked me for the truthYou never asked me what I wantedI didn’t think you caredYou told me to hit Sydney with a stick when he barked… WTactualFYou always gave away our pets13-18You said mean things to me and were happy when they hurt meYou didn’t come to my 9th grade graduation and I decided I didn’t careNo matter what I did, I was the enemyYou took me to family counseling and had to be rightYou went to AA when that wasn’t the problemYou only ever wanted to get “sober” when your boyfriends drankYou seethedYou made me feel stupidYou should have been better to me…To be continued\tIf you were to read this letter you would stop before the end of the first page and say… ‘oh, my love… but let me tell you what happened to me.’ I KNOW. You had it worse, just like everyone else. But this is what happened to me because you didn’t deal with what happened to you. I have sought out secret after secret to hold myself responsible for keeping. I have sought out situations that had no foundation or solid ground. I have lived in a guessing game about when the shoe will drop. I have lived in fear. I have never been sure about reality. I have denied myself, punished myself, hated myself, seethed, felt stuck, felt scared, felt lonely, refused appreciation and love, refused to stand for anything, refused to make a decision, cried about how stupid I am.\tYou tried, I guess. I’ll give you that. At least I didn’t perish – except that I did – emotionally. You said once when I was an adult that we were close. I remember not knowing how to respond and being profoundly confused by the statement – because we weren’t. You were not safe to be close with – ever. I never really felt loved by you. Luckily Aunt D and Uncle M, Aunt A and Uncle A, and J and F were around sometimes. I met D when I was 36 and had 8 great years with him where I felt loved, heard, supported and accepted unconditionally. Maybe you never felt that and I feel sorry for you. Maybe you thought that you could create that for yourself in me? It would have taken a lot more thought and insight on your part – I would have been up to the task when I was younger. Now even thoughts of you can sometimes feel like venom. I’m learning to cope with that now so that I don’t allow myself to be blindsided time and time again by memories. I have the strength to say no to you and change things for A. It is working. Maybe I’ll decide that you’re proud of that – you’re not here to disagree. \tAfter you died – when Aunt A was still here – we talked about you as a mother. I was sad, but I let her know that I always felt as if you really didn’t like me at all. She said that of course you were proud of me, but I disagreed. We haven’t really spoken since then. J and F died too. All of them would have probably said how much you loved me. Of course, I know you did the best you could, but jesus, really?! I cannot imagine that you ever stopped to think, “How is this action that I’m taking right now going to look in the future?” That is the biggest question that has sucked the life right out of me since I was young – always worrying about whether I’m doing what you want me to be doing – never really doing the right thing. It’s a standard-issue manipulation tactic. Vince did the same thing. Always keeping me just off balance – no solid footing. I’ve been hyper vigilant about what I do and how other people see what I do and how I feel about how they feel about what I do and whether they are reacting to my awareness of their reaction to what I do… it is exhausting. I’m exhausted of it. I couldn’t get away from it when I was a kid. Later I could get away – so I did – more and more. Now I don’t want to “get away” from it – I want to understand it so that I am not living in fear of getting my feet kicked out from under me all the goddamn time.\tIt is weak and pitiful that you couldn’t think your way through that. But I get it. I was weak and pitiful too, before. AM does not have this bullshit permeating her life – despite her dad. Even when I lie to her – I admit it. When I recognize that I’m relying on old information, I acknowledge it. She knows every time. I have to solve this problem because I have questions in my head that lead to answers. I think that you had so many questions in your head, but you convinced yourself not to seek answers for them – over and over – and that might be what really fucked you up. Questions cannot go unanswered because they are being asked by the universe – it’s our job to find answers to all of the questions. If we don’t, our minds try to force us. If we refuse, it can get very loud in our heads. Crazy-making.\tYour power of denial was strong. You had a wall I could never break down – I could never get to you. You were completely unwilling to try and break it down yourself. I have held that against you and it has taken up so much energy. I was your subject and I was your tool. And beside physical survival, I got little in return. I wasn’t even able to believe you on your deathbed. It seemed like it would be that moment when things come right – that’s how D saw it – I just saw it as a show. I don’t even know whether I care if my perception is right about that moment. But the truth is that I do care. I want you to have really understood, but I also know it is a moot point. You’re dead. If I believe in any kind of collective consciousness – and I do – then I think maybe it all comes clear and matters much less when you die. That would be nice. It just gets stuck here – with the living planet people – the memories of the things that need to be answered or solved.\tI feel like right now I don’t need to wonder why anything happened or happens. It does and it did, and it is not in the present unless I let it be. Sometimes I do, and more and more, I don’t. I’m on my way to figure out how to connect on a deeper level – how to see things in much larger and less overwhelming terms. It would have been nice if you could have known the freedom of it while you were here. The feeling of freedom comes with the pursuit. You always just thought you could fake it ‘til you make it. I thought so too – but no. You can’t bullshit your way to being there. I got the impression when I was little that if something required effort, I was clearly not supposed to be doing it. Ugh. Like anything worth doing had to just come naturally. You never knew how athletic I was because showing up for me didn’t come naturally to you, so neither did my participating in sports or anything. It was like I was taught that life was just a never-ending series of gigantic frustrations. Okay, so it was. Not anymore. Small frustrations will suffice.\tLast night I watched a documentary about a famous comedian who found out around age 50 that he had been traumatized severely by his mother. She was sadistic – you weren’t, so thank you for that. But I did recognize a lot of what he talked about – a lot of his coping behaviors. How he started thinking he’d be better off dead when he was around 8. I just thought that since I was the cause of your misery, I’d be better off gone – or at least away from you. I assumed that I would eventually be the cause of misery for anyone else who might take care of me, seeing as how I am so flawed and all. Just like the comedian’s mom – you were fine around other people – nobody really knew. Then you would just strike at me and I was expected not to tell. That’s what really does the work, isn’t it – the expectation of silence. On some level I thought that we kept silent about how terrible I was because you were such a kind mother that you wouldn’t humiliate me in front of others. FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK. Welp, here’s the deal – I WIN. You started hating D once he saw through your façade. Same with everyone else – probably my dad too. So, you hated me right out of the gate because you were stuck with me and you couldn’t make shit up 24/7. Jesus, it’s hard to unscramble all of the lies.I also watched a movie about the Sami and the schooling they were subjected to – it took place around the time you were in school. I feel like I’ve inherited this huge struggle to fit in and I’m wondering why. Are we Sami? I have Uncle S’s book, but I don’t get how to interpret it and something tells me that kind of info wouldn’t be in there anyway – even if he knew. Don’t know why. Like, what is it that people actually think they are “getting away with” when they aren’t honest?\tI know trauma can make it impossible to be honest about something that you don’t really remember happening – but you know there is something there nonetheless and why not be honest about that once you figure it out?? I think it was still the 90s when you told me you had remembered a trauma – watching your cousin burn to death in a barn – you were only 3 and nobody comforted you. Then it seemed like you found any way out of exploring what the effects of that trauma were. You found someone who said that you shouldn’t have to dwell on it – just get on with your life. Never happened. Every goddamn May you would turn into this seething monster waiting to tear me down. I’m guessing that particular trauma was the one you discovered, but that there were others that you remembered much more clearly and you just didn’t want to deal with them. I watched you dream a few times and it scared me because it looked like you were about to be raped. It’s not that big a secret for anyone – not you specifically – but in general. We are learning to deal with memories of assault without invoking shame. Sorry you went through what you went through. Thank you for being strong enough to take it every day. Thank you for giving me exactly what I needed to be here in this moment right now. I’m good.>>Your DaughterP.S. I had an epiphany the other night that I am happy because all of the shit got me right where I am, and I’m having a big moment of transformation where I’m becoming me – like knowing what I knew when I was 5. I had to wade through all of the garbage to get here. Please and Thank you. Also, if there is no free-will, then it all becomes more interesting and even you couldn’t make me wrong.P.P.S. This letter will be posted anonymously, printed, deleted and burned forever.P.P.P.S. Thank you and goodbye.