Wednesday, December 26, 2007

There's no water that can wash away this longing to come clean

"We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies." ~Shirley Abbott

About a year and a half ago I wrote a letter to my parents. In it, I spoke of the memories I have of my childhood with them and how I felt those things shaped me into what I am today. I put it in an envelope, addressed it and prepared to mail it off but for some reason, I could not do it. I took the envelope and placed it under my bed where it's been collecting dust ever since.

This is what I think about presents. I think the best presents are the ones that are made by hand, not bought in a store. I know that not everyone possesses the talent to paint or sculpt or write music, but I think if you have those sorts of talents, they are the things that people like me prefer receiving. My most prized possessions are things my father has made for me, things my children have made for me. Those are the things I look at and want to keep safe and feel better just knowing I have them. A sweater from Macy's just doesn't have the same effect. In a fire, I would not think to save a sweater because it was given to me by my parents. But a painting or a piece of furniture made with their hands? Those are things I know I would fight to keep with me.

Even though I have this blog on the internet, I do not share this space with anyone in my family or even my friends. It's so hard to explain how I am this intensely private person and at the same time I am willing to share my feelings with total strangers without batting an eye. It makes no sense and yet it makes perfect sense to me. I feel at ease opening my heart because I'm not risking the involvement of the real people in my life. I think I do not always trust that my family and friends will be careful of my heart. I don't know what I'm afraid of--maybe it's that they would stop loving me if they knew the real me--the one who is imperfect in a million different ways, the one with messy feelings that leak all over the place when what is prized in their world is keeping up appearances, keeping it together.

Sifting through books and whatnot under my bed, I came upon the letter I wrote to my parents and once again I thought about sending it off in the mail to them. I took it in the car with me and passed by the post office for weeks without stopping to get it weighed. I don't know what finally made me mail it. I think I asked myself what I was waiting for and could not come up with a good enough answer. I think I asked myself if I would regret not sending it to them should something happen to them and I knew in my heart that I would. I think I wanted to stop being afraid of owning up to how I feel and I realized that I could not control how they would respond, but I could at least be brave enough to open my heart and say, "this is me." And so I did. I held my breath, then let it go.

A couple of days ago, I received a call from my parents and they told me they loved what I had written, that they had never read anything more beautiful in their lives. They kept referring to my letter as a gift. I cannot tell you how happy this made me because as I've written before, we are not a family who does under the surface living very well. We keep our feelings in check even if it kills us. A lot of the time, actually almost all of my life, I have felt like it's been killing me or at the very least, killing the spirit of who I really am. The last time I tried to communicate to them how I was feeling during a rough period in my life, they changed the subject which left me feeling like I could not be my real self around them--I had to be what they wanted me to be, not what I was. They tend to give me that message a lot, and after a while, I learned to take a hint. But this time? They did not come back and tell me anything more than that I had truly moved them with my words.

This is what I have learned: Sometimes, when you're really scared about opening your heart to people you should be able to open your heart to, they do not disappoint you.

No comments: