I haven't been sleeping very well the last few days, for what I believe are obvious reasons. As I lie in bed at night, I tend to think while Becky easily drifts off to sleep. I've essentially become obsessed with the whole "woulda, coulda, shoulda" thing. There's nothing I could have done with her alive, but now that she's dead, I continuously dwell on a relationship that...I don't know...could have been fixed?
No...That's not true at all. There's nothing that could have fixed the relationship between my mother and I...my mother and the rest of the world. Not without her as a cooperative party to said changes. And so I dwell on the impossible. I feel like I'm stuck in this place - this emotional space where I want something so badly, but know there's no way to undo the past.
Had an hour-long chat with my buddy Bryan last night. We talked of the past...of change...of acceptance. Even while in such a bad place emotionally, dark humor was able to rear its head. We spoke of being compared to "the neighbor's kid." My mother did this constantly. "Why can't you be more like (insert specific neighbor's kid who seemed oh so perfect)?" Bryan experienced the same thing, but with a different kid being named, of course. It was at this point that I mentioned how it wasn't made any easier in the 70s with The Brady Bunch airing so often. The perfect family...rich, happy, well-adjusted, successful, and always getting caught in fairly innocent hijinks, complete with "canned laughter" at their essentially innocent jokes. ("Good morning Carol...Mike." Oh, Greg...You goofy rebel, you!) So all kids were consciously or unconsciously compared to the Brady kids, while all parents were compared to Mike and Carol Brady. (And, dangit! Why couldn't we ALL have an Alice Nelson in our lives?)
It seemed to get worse for kids in the mid-80s to early 90s with The Cosby Show. Then kids faced a family that was not only rich, happy, well-adjusted, successful, and always getting caught in fairly innocent hijinks, but they were black. Being in a predominantly white neighborhood, with about 50% of them being Jewish, "Why can't you be more like the verdammt shvatsas?" (This is not MY perspective, but that of the area I grew up, known to many a teenager as "Bagel Bend.")
We live our lives in a realm of comparison. Once upon a time, a man found a good catch when he found a corpulent woman, as being heavy was a sign that she was eating well, which meant she could afford to do so, and that meant a rich wife. Now we want skinny little things with tight bodies and well-rounded breasts, all because this is what magazine covers and most Hollywood productions dictate to us what the perfect woman looks like. And all men should have six-pack abs, a barrel chest, and virtually no hair on their bodies. Anything else on either side of the line is "settling."
I don't know anyone who grew up with a family like the Bradys or the Huxtables. Some came close, but none were oh so perfect. The problem for me are those families that came close. I had living examples of a better life all around me, yet was forced to endure life "in that house with those people."
While Bryan and I were talking, I asked him if he understood why I was disabled now. Did he understand the cause of my not taking care of my diabetes when I was younger? His guess was that I wasn't reared to understand and respect the illness I have, and that's partially true. In fact, I resented being a diabetic most of my life, having been taught to see it as a burden instead of something I could easily live with. (Diabetes is sometimes called "the healthiest disease," as it enforces a good diet and exercise on those afflicted.) But that wasn't the reason for being hospitalized for diabetic ketoacidosis so many times that I lost count. No, the REAL reason was that the hospital was a better place than where I was living. In the hospital, the nurses and doctors actually cared about me, regardless of who or what I was. I was only judged when I truly misbehaved. (And there were more than a few incidents where I deserved what I had coming to me.) But on a regular basis, nurses and doctors didn't yell at me. They treated me with caring and a degree of respect due to a basic human being. I can't say I was loved, but it was as close to being loved as I could possibly get, aside from the occasional teen infatuation.
Part of that blame falls on my mother. Dad wasn't around often enough to be considered a bad influence. It was my mother who drove me into that emotional corner where I felt my best option was to make myself deathly ill. (Did you actually read that Wiki article I linked?) Only later in life did I realize that making myself so ill was MY CHOICE. Now, as I suffer through the complications of diabetes, I often also suffer through tremendous guilt at what I've done to myself.
But what did I know? I was a teenager, and teenagers are invulnerable, right? Lose a leg? Go blind? No, those complications were for lesser beings. And while I might take responsibility for my actions NOW, back then I believe that a fair portion of the blame must be placed on my mother. Because I lived in fear at home. Because I was always driven into a deep depression and a desire to be dead instead of alive. Because I was pushed into an emotional place at least once a month where I thought severe dehydration, labored breathing, and almost constantly vomiting was BETTER than staying in that house. The hospital was like a country club to my youthful perspective, with nurses waiting on me, meals being brought to me, and plenty of other kids (read: girls) with which to hang out.
How influential were my hospitalizations back then? Enough for my very first romantic kiss from a girl to occur there. As was the very first time I fell in love, (although I confessed that feeling rather clumsily AFTER I met the girl in the hospital).
And so...I am tired. My mind is stuck in the past, when I should be here in the present, looking forward to the future. This post...It was going to be a letter to my deceased mother, but then I realized that it would simply be a rehashing of that which I've already said these last few days. My mother was a genetic donor to the children she birthed, then went about turning each into a different kind of monster. The difference between my brothers and I is that I'm fully aware of that which she did, and am making an effort to ensure that the cycle of abuse is broken with me. It's what makes me a little bit better, and less of a monster than I was apparently meant to be.
I'm off to attempt getting some rest of some sort. Be well, my friends, and DFTBA.