The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have to be honest that this day’s prompt almost stopped me from wanting to continue with this project. It was easy to rationalize that I didn’t have time to think about this because my mom was in town staying with me for the past week. Her visits to Chicago are always filled with wine tastings, the Art Institute, shopping, long daily walks by the lake, hysterical laughter, classical music in the park, movies, brunches, lunches, dinners, naps, job interviews, the french market, fireworks, champagne, Steve Martin and Martin Short at the Chicago Theater, a colonoscopy and the disgusting medicinal swamp water prep that goes along with it. And that’s not all, but you get the point. It’s easy to not think about what I’m afraid to do when I’m busy doing so much stuff.
She left today and the house is quiet now that the rain has ended except for the furious wind and the occasional object flying past my thirty-fifth story window. And everything in me doesn’t want to write about what’s too scary because I’m irrationally worried that if I write down what I’m afraid of then it might have the potential to become reality. These aren’t thoughts that would normally bother me in the daylight, but for some reason the night has a tendency to bring out all of my emotions. The other part of me knows by facing my fear, it has less power over me because I’ll be able to see it for what it is. But what if it’s about the fear of losing the people I love? Whenever my mom heads back to Cleveland after a visit, I have a moment just after she walks away when I feel so sad that I am overwhelmed with fear of losing her forever. In all honesty, she’s not going anywhere yet. She’s healthy, vital and full of energy. She even works on new bits to try and make my brother and me laugh. (Yes, she calls them bits.) Her latest? Asking us if we think the waiter looks like Adam Sandler. (I didn’t say they were good bits, but when she says it about every single waiter over the course of a week, it starts to get funny.) She’s not afraid to laugh at her own jokes or to be the punchline of anyone else’s joke for that matter. I admire that quality more than I have ever let her know. And frankly, I have no idea what in the world I would do without her. I know that life would go on, but it would be a much duller one without her in it.
When I was around ten years old, we were driving home from Uncle Bill’s when I told her that it would be easier if I died first. We were stopped at a traffic light on Rocky River Drive not far from the airport in her silver Oldsmobile with the black leather interior. I was afraid of what her reaction might be when I said it out loud, so I stared out the passenger window rather than looking at her. “Molly, how could you even think such a thing?” It was like I had knocked the wind out of her. My childish response was that I wouldn’t be able to stand it so it would be easier on both of us if I died first. She told me no parent would ever wanted their child to go before them. “I raised you to live long after I’m gone, not to put you in the ground.” I knew what she said was right, but I didn’t like it. Now, I know it’s not fair to expect my mom to give birth, raise me, put up with all of my bullshit and love me anyway, then bury me too. It’s an immature way of thinking about grief. I am meant to rise up out of the ashes in spite of the sorrow–to be wholly myself in the midst of loss–not cower like the scared little girl who felt unsure of herself and unsafe in the world. That’s the greatest gift I could give her. But that doesn’t mean I want to write about it…and it doesn’t mean I’m ready for it either.
I have been following all of your Trust Project writings and have every intention of replying and taking part because it’s such a cool writing prompt project. But Intentions do not write themselves and if I wait until just the right time and nothing will ever get written. I’ve also had to work a little on my perfectionism and not do them in order…..
So – in reply to ‘what am I most afraid of writing about’…..I
I’ve actually thought about this a lot before now, because it’s something I want to write about, and something that is integral to my life truth. I also keep butting my head up against it whenever I contemplate the book I’m researching and journalling about – my book about betrayal and forgiveness.
I’m not actually scared to write about it, I’m worried about the repercussions if I do – and who might be hurt. I desperately don’t want to be the cause of any hurt and I know this will.
Many times what is so obvious to us, others are completely oblivious about. Awareness doesn’t arrive on the same schedule and sometimes doesn’t arrive at all for some. I can look at a flower and see the beautiful lavender colour and be soothed by the calming scent and yet a second person will swear there isn’t even a flower to be seen. To them, there is no flower in their field of consciousness.
It’s that way with my mom. I love her dearly and she’s an incredibly giving and supportive woman in my life. But I have long since grown to speak a different language and see a different world. She knows this and even speaks of it and is proud to tell others, but at the same time she is afraid to take the first step to join me.
My mom often says the one thing in life she wanted was the perfect family – the life long loving marriage with the kids and the white picket fence. She always wanted to be a mother – that’s the only career she ever dreamed of.
She and my father married so young – she was just eighteen and he only three years older. They had their first child less than a year later, and two more each year after that. By the time my mom was 29 years old she had five children. By the time she was 36 years old she was separated and on her way to being divorced. A single mother of five.
My mom and dad grew up and grew apart. When my dad left for another province and another career, mom made the decision not to join him. Her dream of the white picket fence shattered along with her marriage and our family. She coped the only way she know how; by finding another man to take care of her. But here comes the part I’m afraid to write about. The part that will hurt my mother. The part that is buried so deep inside her that she forgot it even happened.
When my dad left our lives when I was fourteen, my mother left our lives as well. I lost my dad and my mom at the same time. Us kids were like that TV show, “Party of Five”, except it was kind of more of a free for all. Three teenagers thick in the narcissistic stage of differentiating and finding ourselves. One already scarily independent almost teenager and one little seven year old boy who just wanted his mom.
I want to write about what that was like. What it was like to suddenly not have parents who cared what grade we got in school, if we had any homework, or what we did on the weekends. I want to write about what it was like trying to get ready for school in the mornings and at the same time comfort a crying little boy who didn’t want to go to school and needed his mom who wasn’t there. I want to write about how that affected such huge, monumental choices in my life. About how it was the over riding, completely unconscious reason I married my ex-husband too young. About how my dreams died the day my dad left and then my mom left and how I didn’t have the courage to resurrect them for twenty five years. I want to write about all of that and so much more.
But I can’t. I’m afraid. I’m afraid it will hurt my mom. I know it will hurt my mom. I’ve come to know that there is a time for everything and there is a benefit to waiting. This story will be written, but not in my mom’s lifetime. And that makes me afraid.