Thursday, January 26, 2006
when I was a child
When I was a child, my mother was, quite simply, out of control. Verbally, emotionally, physically. My brothers and I learned very young that no matter what we said or did, or didn't say or do, it would be our fault if mom 'lost it.' If we hadn't said/done what we did, or had said/done what she wanted us to (not that she would tell us what she wanted -- no, we were just supposed to know), then she wouldn't have had to say/do whatever she said/did to us. She also had a penchant for picking men with the same philosophy -- the it's not my fault philosophy.
Bruised body, bruised heart...that angelic face to the right didn't deserve it. And you'd never know, by looking in her eyes, that she'd already endured, by the age of six, more than many do in a lifetime. She shouldn't have had to.
Many children growing up take the accusation to heart. They truly believe that somehow, they were at fault. That if they hadn't said/done whatever, then the adult wouldn't have had to hurt them, physically or emotionally. They internalize that, and as they grow, they continue to believe they are wrong, unworthy.
I, however, reacted differently. Somehow, I instinctively knew that it was wrong, even at a very young age. That nothing I had said or done was reason enough for the abuse I was receiving, whether verbal or physical. That it was an unjust attack, that provocation was irrelevant. And that sense of injustice burned within, and kept me whole. The one thought that went through my mind the most when I was growing up was I will never ever do that to my kids when I'm a mommie. And I never did.
Flash forward 39 years, to me at 45. Yes, I'm still 45 -- for another whole 17 days!
We are who we are in large part through our life experiences. What we live shapes who we become as adults. It defines what we believe, what we value in life. So I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone that when I hear an adult tell someone, adult or child, it's not my fault, you made me do it, I get angry. That old sense of injustice fills me to overflowing. I feel so strongly about it that I would go so far as to say that if it is said to a child, or to someone with whom they have an intimate relationship, it is tantamount to emotional abuse. Yes, I've had considerable difficulty in the intervening years with respecting people who can't/won't take responsibility for their own loss of control in any given situation.
I believe that ultimately, the only thing in life that we truly have total control over is ourself. Our own reaction, our own response, our own actions, our own words. We each must own our own words. And take full responsibility for them. I myself recently wrote something that perhaps I shouldn't have. As true as it was, I recognize now that sometimes the truth need not be spoken. To know it in one's heart may be enough.
We may think we have control over other things or people in our life -- our jobs, our kids, our homes, etc -- but if you've ever experienced a sudden turn of events, you'll see that that kind of control is an illusion we allow ourselves to believe. It helps keep us sane to think we have control over things. And of course, individuals with physical or mental conditions that require medications to maintain self-control have extenuating circumstances.
But I truly only have control, permanently and unto death, over me, myself and I. That's all I can control. And that then, becomes my main responsibility in life. To control myself. I can choose not to accept that responsibility. I can choose to blame others for my loss of self-control, should I lose control. But, in doing so, I lie to myself. And I bruise the heart or body of some individual who doesn't deserve to be bruised.