I don’t want you to misunderstand though. My parents were great-the best they could be based on the models who had come before- and very non-conventional. But my mom was an alcoholic and my dad was probably one as well, but was definitely an abusive husband and father. (Not to me, but most definitely to my brother). The strange thing was, it was really common in my very middle class new family neighborhood. I didn’t even recognize there was a problem until I was in middle school because my parents were no different from my friends’ parents. It’s like we were some weird abuse cluster or plagued by bad parenting models. I used to lie in bed, covering my ears so I wouldn’t hear them fighting and pray that my parents would get a divorce.
The thing is, I knew they loved me. I knew this family meant the world to them. I never questioned that they loved and wanted us. And as tumultuous as our upbringing was, I could always tell my parents wanted to be good at parenting. They came to everything. Supported us in all endeavors. Drunk or sober, they were there. Now, I had the role of the middle child, the mediator, the peacekeeper and (although I didn’t come to realize it until high school), the enabler. I was the protector for my sister, support for my brother and sounding board and confidant for my mother. Dad was always working and was my pal on the weekends. I think this is when I started really honing my chameleon-like skills for morphing into whatever the situation required, which we'll discuss later. My mother and I had a particularly difficult road because we were in some ways the best of friends and in some ways, poison. Ok, she was poison to me. She just needed me so much and as a kid, you feel so honored and privileged when you are needed by your parents, you don’t see the danger such a role reversal can present.
But many family barbeques and camping trips and beach vacations later, I found myself in high school looking at the possibility of college. My mother was drinking straight vodka at this point, my father had given up on helping, my brother was angry, violent, and bi-polar and my sister…well, she was a fighter but she had me there to protect her at all times. My parents were looking at financial ruin and I was taking the calls from the creditors, talking to the school, making sure my sister got out the door and on the bus and dealing with the day to day chaos.
I wanted to leave so much. My mother and I were constantly fighting-she could be so mean because she knew what would hurt me the most. But she didn’t mean it; I mean, she meant it at the time, but she didn’t mean for it to land, to stick. I once used the analogy of a row boat tied to the dock. My mother would shove me away as hard and as swiftly as she could and as she watched me drift away, the fear would seize her again and she would grab the slack rope and pull with all her might. No matter how far I might drift, I was always going to be tied to that dock. So I made the decision. I had to leave. I had to move away. I had to desert my family and let them sink or swim.
What does this have to do with how I ended up here? Ok, some of that might be obvious. I was pretty damaged by high school, strong but damaged. And I met the two great loves of my life at this point. They both were so absorbed in the ugliness and moldering carnage of my life that the old “knight in shining armor” poured forth. Though neither was really much of a knight. Two more damaged souls looking for someone to love, someone who needed them as badly as I did. And I, having spent my life as an enabler who needed to feel needed was looking for my newest project. I found it in my future husband. He was so handsome and sexy and talented. And did I mention, twenty-six? Yup, eleven felonious years between us but what did I care? He wanted me! They all wanted him, but he wanted me! It was the same way with my ex-whom I’m just going to start calling Mr. Darcy because, my “ex” isn’t wholly accurate either.
There is something so intoxicating about being wanted by someone everyone else desires. It’s like a drug, especially for one as average as me. I was an excellent student, but not particularly popular, except with the already disenfranchised who, strangley enough, followed me like a god. So when I had these two older men (for Mr. Darcy was also of a felonious age, though not so scandalous as future husband), I was rather beside myself with joy and for a while transported from the repulsiveness of my home situation.
I made it to college; in New York, far from the troubles back home, but every day I would mourn leaving my sister behind. Every day I would recieve multiple phone calls from my mother, crying and begging me to come home. Every day I would assign myself the task of finding five reasons why I would not end my life on this day, and I knew the day I couldn't give myself five, I wouldn't see another sunset. I didn't want to die. I just didn't want to suffer anymore. But I would find five reasons, and I would delete my answering machine messages. (My poor roomate. I didn't even listen to them. Her family probably thought she'd forgotten them entirely). And I would get dressed, smile, go to class, go to rehearsals, go to bed, and start the whole process over again.
The thing they don’t tell you in the stories is that everything truly can get better, but then it can also get worse and that you can drift back and forth between the two-the pendulum may barely vibrate or it may list back and forth at a dizzying pace. And it takes such a brief amount of time for such transitions to occur that just as you adjust to the one, you are already in the midst of the next. And that in the eye of chaos, there can be great joy and growth and angels on earth who simply offer help and guidance at the faintest of calls. That you can function, every day, under the radar and no one will know what is really going on. I often say to my friends in my “coming out” as it were, regarding this double life I’ve had, “I seem so normal, right?” You just never really know.
I feel that at this point, I must stop for the sake of my readers. There is much more to tell, and much of it is quite pleasant and amusing, but I thought it would help to understand how ensconced I was in these relationships. They were far more meaningful and intense than any fifteen or sixteen year old girl should experience. But now I will give you a respite from strife and tell of happier and more current tales. We shall come back to this in future.