Friday 23 January 2015

Take The Time

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Suffice to say my upbringing wasn't the easiest. A lot of my childhood was wrought with the worse part of mum's illness. I'd say in the first 10 years of my life it was at it's worst and the time after that she had ups and downs. I'm glad in a way though that I was exposed to it at a younger age when I was still learning everything and able to take it on to the best of my ability.

I spent a lot of my subsequent years hoping, wishing, occasionally praying for a way to get out of the hell I was living in, but it never came when I wanted it to until I realized in my early 20's that it was up to me to do something about it, even though taking the first step or doing something that you've never done before is incredibly terrifying, if anything is to get better, you don't really have a choice.

I thought when I finally moved out that I'd be throwing a party and ecstatic to be out.

The first night I reveled in the fact that I'd actually done it. After about a decade of thinking and talking about doing it, I'd actually plucked up the courage, put down my first fortnight's rent and had a new home address.

The first few days didn't get off to a good start though. I got locked out and panicked about it when I couldn't get through to any of my housemates or the landlord to come and let me in and ended up spending the day, or most of it at home just processing the massive life change I was going through.

The room I lived in was an add-on to the back of the house and under a tin roof awning, so when it rained or pretty much any natural element hit it, it's was deafening and terrifying. A week into it I questioned whether or not I had done the right thing but told myself to stick it out because there were worse things out there and I needed to know that I could do it on my own. I had to.

After a few months past, I settled into a routine. I had a new job, I'd figured out how to get to different places by bus and train, my parents seemed to be adjusting although dad was obviously struggling to cope with the change even though mum was seemingly cheerful in comparison.

My first Christmas there I started to feel emotional and found myself coming home and crying every day for about half an hour or so. I couldn't explain it, I just felt so many different things.

When I went to visit my parents and reclaimed my usual spot at the computer dad had setup in my old bedroom when I first started high school and my cat came and sat on my bed and proceeded to cleanse herself for the millionth time that day, I couldn't stop myself crying.

Mum came in to comfort me and told me I was lonely. I'd moved to an area I wasn't sure about, everything was still unusual in a way and the creature comforts I'd known for so long weren't there anymore. I felt truly lonely and there was no one at my new home to ease that pain for me.

My favorite member of the family, aside from the bond I had with my dad which had it's ups and downs, was my cat. She was there for me when no one else was our could be. It still amazes me how some people who aren't allergic to animals just don't like them. Perhaps they've never felt the feeling of true loneliness.

Every day I would come home from school and she would either be waiting for me on the gate post, sitting on the porch steps or asleep on my bed (sometimes my parents). I always made sure to show her as much love and affection as I possibly could because I knew one day she wouldn't be here anymore and I didn't want to end up saying 'I wish I'd spent more time with her'.

After I moved out and went back home to visit, I desperately wanted to bring her back with me. MY housemates were keen to have a pet and the landlord was open to a trial run, but my parents thought it was too risky, so I just settled for kisses and cuddles whenever I saw her.

I knew she was getting old. Mum told me whenever they made a vet visit about what they'd commented on her age. I knew it was just a matter of time really before I'd come home and she wouldn't be there, so I took the time to spend a few extra minutes just patting her and basking in her adorableness.

When I got the call one night from mum telling me my beloved kitty had been attacked by the neighbours dogs in our own backyard, I was devastated, almost inconsolable. I knew she was going to go one day, I just figured it'd be from old age or maybe choking on some of the ridiculous amounts of food she ate. Not by another being,

At the time I was going through a lot of emotional processing which had seen me almost completely withdraw from my parents. I had realized a few things about my teen years which I'd brought up in therapy a few months prior and needed to keep my distance from my family because being near them was too hard. I had limited contact to only my brother who I didn't feel hurt by and opened up to him telling him as much as I could about what was going on for me after he inquired from what mum had told him.

There was a period of about 3 months or so when that was the only contact I had. I'd deliberately taken a year off from dancing because I knew once I moved out that I'd be able to rip open my emotional scars which had held me back for so long, find a way to deal with the pain that came out, and finally be able to heal and move on.

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A few days after she died, mum called me up and asked if I'd like to come and stay over since dad and my brother were off on a job somewhere and wouldn't be back until the weekend. I went and mourned with her for the day, stood by the patch of dirt which vaguely marked the grave by the gatepost she loved to sit on and made it my duty while I was there to give it more dignity than just a hole in the ground. The immensely cruel irony of it was when you looked diagonally, you had a crystal clear shot of the house from where the killer dogs came from. I wondered if dad had thought the burial plot through very well since the beloved family dog had been buried in the back yard with a concrete slab covering it and his name etched into it.

Mum had made the call to let me know of my cat's passing, but it was dad who'd found her. In a cruel twist of fate, I realized that whatever I felt towards my dad at the time had become second to the pain of losing her. In order for us to get back to some kind of common ground, something worse had to happen.

It took some time to heal, to let go of the hurts, pain and wounds of the past and to finally accept that both of my parents had really done the very best that they could to raise my brother and I whilst dealing with their own problems, even if the two had co-mingled more than a few times.

When I was able to stop letting my parents and the pain they'd unintentionally caused me, rule and control my life, things gradually got better.

It was around this time that I found a new place to live and moved in with my cousin who I credit to giving me the confidence to enjoy being a woman. My cousin had her morning routine of doing hair and make up which I never had whether for myself or from my mum. Mum rarely wore make up and always told me I didn't need any and I didn't know or really care enough about it to buy more products.

After I got past the 'it's my rite of passage to wear makeup' vs 'I refuse to let the beauty industry tell me whether or not I'm beautiful based on how many of their products I buy', and just enjoyed wearing makeup because it was a fun accessory to wear and another way to be creative, I built up my collection a bit more and took more opportunities to wear it and eventually broke down the self-conscious barrier my parents had constructed for me. I'm a woman. If I want to wear makeup and it makes me feel good to put it on without it defining my self-worth, then dammit I'm going to wear it!

It's been just over 2 years since my cat died. I do miss her, but I have pictures of her on my bedroom walls, memories in my head and heart and hope to one day get a tattoo of her face on my shoulder where she used to curl up sometimes.

Since moving in with my cousin and slowly letting my parents back into my life, things have gotten much better. Dad and I are quite possibly closer that we used to be when I was younger, mum and I had a unique relationship where she accepts me for who I am and I her, as best as we can.

For all the times and years I thought I would make a clean break from my family, I never wanted to be the kind of person who held onto their pain for life and let it ruin relationships. Even when times were at their hardest, I kept telling the people I was closest to that I didn't want to cut my parents out of my life, I just needed time and space to heal before I could let them back in.

I know what I've been through isn't an overly unique story, and I know there are many people who were treated so very much worse and wouldn't even dream of letting the perpetrator back into their lives, but for people who have been hurt by others and know somewhere inside themselves that it was only really because the other person was hurting themselves more, I wonder if it might be time to think about letting go of your pain and giving yourself time to heal and maybe even reconnecting with the people or person that hurt you.

I decided a long time ago that I was going to take the time to let myself feel then heal all the hurt and pain that had been inflicted upon me, then when I was ready, I'd let the people back in, little by little.

Don't regret what might have been if you have the opportunity to let it be.

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