I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately.
True to form, I’m neatly torn down the center of the issue. Half of me is terrified of it, and half of me isn’t necessarily yearning for it, but looks toward it with a sense of… relief? Cliche, I know, but you’ll forgive me.
Surprise, surprise, I’ve always had a penchant for the macabre, and angst. Much angst. Well, I’ve had a lot of both lately. Maybe it’s my job, maybe it’s my home life, maybe it’s me, but one way or the other, I’ve wanted out. A lot. Nothing is interesting, only sad. Nothing is fair, only infuriating. Nothing is how it should be, only wrong. Sometimes, when I’m walking through my crowded, noisy, dirty city I get these really clean, comforting smells that waft over to me from God knows where and it’s so calming and familiar. It smells like what I sometimes think home feels like. It’s nice while it’s there, but when it’s gone again, it hurts. And I’m reminded again of all the ways in which life isn’t fair.
When I was 7, my parents got divorced. My mishmash family was torn asunder (I was too small to realize it then, but it was never really together), and my tiny little kid brain was a whirling cocktail shaker of feelings. So many feelings. Hence, the angst. I hated myself, I hated my life, I hated everything. I was sad and confused and awkward. It was dark. Well, as dark as life for a suburban preteen could be.
I had a good relationship with my dad at this time. Always had. It was my batty mother who I’ve always had the most issues with. Her house was disorganized, undisciplined, emotional, irrational. Dirty. Dad’s was clean, strict, regimented. Bright. My mother had a problem child of her own to deal with, my half brother 8 years my senior, and had no room left in her heart for me (so my dad said. So I believed. So sometimes still believe). My brother got violent with me one day and I ran away to my dad’s. He convinced me to file a police report. I got a personal protection order. My mother beat down my father’s front door not to see if I was alright but to see if I would drop the charges. This cemented my bond with my dad — for the time.
As soon as I started growing up and wanting some autonomy, my dad couldn’t handle it. He was a bit too regimented, and me going out with my friends until the unreasonable hour of any time after sunset was just not going to fly under his roof. I was 11 when he kicked me out the first time. He said pack your bags and go to your mother’s, you cannot stay here. So I packed my bag. And he said if you leave you can never come back. So I said I’d stay. And he said no, you can’t. You understand my dilemma. This continued on for some time, the sporadic evictions of his young daughter, until my mother said Thomas you simply must stop this, I have a life of my own and she cannot stay here on her weeks with you.
I believe it was about this time I started to believe nobody loved me.
My now-turbulent relationship with my father vastly improved the moment I moved 360 miles away. I went to university as far away as I could afford to go. He came to see me once a year, no more, no less. My mother never came to see me. My father says he was at my graduation, but I didn’t see him. My mother I did see at graduation, at which time she promised to come back a fortnight later when I had to pack up my tiny flat and move house back whence I came (I would be staying with my father, as my mother had moved in with her boyfriend and there was no space for me. My father graciously allowed me to stay in my old room, what had been converted into a guestroom and is currently his music room). I called her late on my penultimate day in the flat to ask when I should expect her the next day. She said she wasn’t coming.
I cried for most of the 360 miles, and then pulled up into the empty driveway of my father’s empty house, and unpacked my tiny car into the tiny guestroom I grew up in. I rifled through the memories brought home with me from university and cried for all the friends that were hundreds of miles away. My father didn’t say hello to me when he came home. I didn’t much mind.
I was home approximately 5 weeks before he kicked me out again — this time for good. It was, as it usually is, over something small. My then-boyfriend picked me up at the positively whorish hour of 11.30 pm, and therefore I was a harlot and unfit to reside beneath his roof. Against my stepfather’s wishes, I was permitted to live at my mother’s house — for one month. 3 weeks later I had a flat 40 miles away with my best mate and fuck the lot of them. A week later I met my current boyfriend, and never went back.
Let’s speed up time to 4 months ago. I live well over 600 miles away from both parents, in a dirty, heathenish, sinful, expensive, dangerous city. My father has not come to see me in three years. My mother has come twice. She cancelled her third trip the week she was meant to fly out. Her ticket was nonrefundable. She wasn’t bothered. I go back to my hometown approximately once a year and it is more than enough for me. By the time I was in my early twenties I was far enough from home and my teenage years to develop a friendship with my parents. I got in the habit of calling my mom every other day or so and listen to her problems with work, her husband, her step children, whatever. I rarely offered anything from my life. If I did, it wasn’t a topic of discussion for long, and would typically end in a jab at the quality of life in my expensive, loud, noisy, cramped city.
Then, four months ago… my mother stopped answering my phone calls. Always a bit of a space cadet, it wasn’t a huge shock initially. Then she stopped calling me back. I let it go on for a while, just to test the water. I didn’t text or call her. I went nigh on a month before I heard from her, and then I was the one to reach out. I’ve spoken to her maybe half a dozen times since then. I was home for my brother’s wedding (the same brother, you will recall, who I had the violent skirmish with — credit where it’s due, he’s grown into a really stand up chap) and although I stayed with her, I barely saw her. I cooked the rehearsal dinner for my brother, and due to a space shortage at the table outside, sat in the kitchen on my own. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel like hired help, and poorly paid hired help at that. I’ve spoken to her once since then. Guess who called who.
My dad and I have a good relationship if we keep it superficial — we talk about moral issues, and he’ll tell me about his happenings, and I tell him what animals I’m fostering at the time. It’s not a terribly close relationship, but it’s safe. But my mother…
I’ve spoken to a few people about my mother. I pretend I’m not surprised (I’m not), and that I’m not hurt (I am) because she’s always been like this (she has). But it’s really done a number on my self-esteem. It’s hard to wrap your head around your own mother not liking you. I feel defective to my core. When a mother in the animal kingdom rejects her offspring it is almost always because there is something wrong with it, not her. So what is wrong with me?
I regret asking that question.
I am judgmental, cynical, bitchy, abrasive, dark, unhappy, punitive, delicate, emotional, irrational, explosive, illogical, unintelligent, egotistical, selfish, and frankly a little bit pudgy.
And what is right with me?
These days, I don’t know.
I care. I try.
So we come full circle. Here I am, slightly terrified at the prospect of a big nothing, and slightly relieved, like a traveler who has had a long journey and knows his bed is waiting for him just a little further ahead.