How honest is too honest? For me, that has been the trickiest part about blogging. Over the last several months I’ve laid a lot of things bare. I’ve exposed personal things about my life, my family, and the inner workings of my heart that, at times, have made me uncomfortable because they were so honest. I’ve been worried about hurting other people, and I’ve been worried about hurting myself. But I’ve also realized that if I’m not honest, I might as well not write. If it doesn’t matter to me, if it’s not meaningful, then what the hell is the point? So I find myself back at square one, telling the truth. The complete, unabashed and sometimes, ugly, truth.
I’m not a nice person. That’s the truth. If you talk to anyone who knows me intimately, they’ll tell you two things: I have a heart the size of Texas and I’m fiercely and loyally devoted to those I love, and I’m also a complete and total bitch. It’s true. Casual acquaintances know me as the ‘nice’ girl. But those who know me better know that I have another side. A side that’s unforgiving. A side that’s not afraid to be vicious if you’re standing in the way of something that matters to me. A side that’s primal, fiercely protective, and about claws-out survival.
I used to shy away from this part of myself. I used to deny it. After all, we’re taught to play nice. We’re taught to obey the rules. Especially us girls. What will people think of me if I let my dark and twisted side out to roam free in the civilized world?
My Mom was nice. She was the nicest person I ever knew. She literally did not have a mean bone in her body. And I adored her. She was my best friend, and my favorite person on this earth.
But she was also the unhappiest person I ever knew. She loved (no, worshipped) my Dad, but he was a difficult man. A brilliant, often wonderful man, but difficult as hell man to live with. She probably should have left him. At times, she wanted to. She cried to me about it when I was a little girl, making plans about where we’d go, where we’d start our new life. But she didn’t leave. She stayed – even though she was unhappy – because she loved him. My Mom was like that. Always doing the right thing, no matter what the personal cost. Maybe it was the Catholic thing. Maybe she was afraid of rocking the boat. Maybe she wasn’t brave. Maybe all of those things.
My Mom died. And when I say died, what I mean is she imploded in a spectacular fashion. She did it all, was everything to everyone, until she couldn’t be anymore. She couldn’t be anything to anyone, least of all herself, and she self-medicated and retreated into a bottle for relief and it killed her. It was shocking, it was heartbreaking, and it should have been obvious all along that this could have been the only end to her sad story. My sweet, kind, miserably unhappy mother, too sensitive for this world and who tried to do too much for too many, in the end, had nothing left for herself.
It’s a strange thing to idolize someone, to love them desperately and completely, to be willing to do anything for them, and yet be absolutely determined not to be like them, come hell or high-water. From a very young age, I knew I didn’t want to be my Mom. Her choices terrified me. They felt like a self-imposed prison that flew in the face of everything I dreamed of: an unconventional life that was adventurous and free and fun, that embraced art and beauty, a life that took risks, that was creative, spontaneous and inspired.
In the last year and a half, I’ve lost a lot of people that I love. People who have been been literal giants in my life and crucial to my development as a human being. Both of my parents. My only remaining Grandmother. And a dear friend. For a long time, all of this death and dying, sadness and loss, left me underwater. It left me numb. I didn’t know what to do with myself or where to go. I felt defeated. I felt angry. I felt sad. And for a long time, I abandoned the one thing I really should have been doing throughout all this, which is to write it all down. Truthfully.
No more. I don’t care who doesn’t like it. I don’t care who doesn’t like me. I am done, to quote Lanford Wilson, “Telling lies to protect the guilty.” Telling the truth about my family – with all of their imperfections and frailties – doesn’t mean I don’t love them or miss them or wish that they were still here. It just means that I want to survive their mistakes. I want to learn from them. So that I can be better and stronger and smarter. And doing that means no more apologizing. It means embracing the side of myself that’s not so nice. The side that wants to kick ass. The side that doesn’t give a damn what you think. And the side that’s all about telling the truth, no matter how ugly or uncomfortable it can sometimes be.
Until next time, friends.