I think I’m prettiest when I’m sad. I think my eyes are most sincere when they shine with tears. Tears are honest. They are cleansing. Tears are apart of me. Every tear I’ve shed in my life has gradually formed a pond at my feet. A pond I thought evaporated. As time went on though, the tears would come back. Not new tears. These were old tears. Recycled tears . Familiar tears… That never fully went away. That didn’t get the pleasure of release. Sometimes they find their escape now. In moments when I least expect it.
In moments I believe I am most happy.
My tears are sincere. Especially when I’m alone. These are the moments I have no one to face but myself. It’s personal surrender. A concession to previously repressed feelings. I have no reason to question whether or not they are just pretend. Whether or not I am seeking attention. These are the times when I sit back and reflect. I listen to songs, mindlessly busy myself with easy tasks and doze off. These are the times when I am susceptible to waves of reminiscence.
Waves of memories that are still alive. Living through me. Inhospitably inhabiting my body. I am the victim. A mere host of the past person I wholeheartedly disregard. The girl I leave behind.
Every day I try to forget that girl. The girl who feels pain with every fiber of her being. The one who refuses to acknowledge it. The girl who wholeheartedly loves her mother. The one who can no longer express emotion comfortably to her. The girl whose family is broken. The one whose sadness is so prevalent, that each memory causes a slight reverberation so deep within her, that often, all it takes is a slight aversion of the eyes to miss it.
The moment of her ache.
The moment she unwillingly tears into the scars on her soul.
Then come the tears from my past. The memories are recurring. They exist to teach, dictate and torment my life. They engross me. I didn’t realize that these moments would all come back to me. The moments—now so real—would be relived.
I am six years old. The girl is sitting on the floor in the front of an unnecessarily large beige Chevy Van her dad brought home one day against her mother’s will. She is staring forward at the black shiny pavement. At the soundless twinkles of water slightly sprinkling the street against the headlights. The parents do not force the child to sit down properly and buckle up. They are caught up in their own dispute. She sits in between them. I will remain in between them for the rest of my life. The young girl doesn’t fully grasp the premise of the argument. Yet, she understands that the words carry a heavy load. They are cognizant of past disputes. My father held grudges against my mother because of past events that were completely out of her control. The little girl’s tears start slowly at first. They are silent. Always silent. Even then, I tried to hide my sensitivity. My parents are going to get a divorce she thinks to herself. Her mother, noticing her tears, asks what is wrong. With a quivering voice, the girl articulates her fears. The Mother assures the girl that everything is fine. My mom used to be my source of comfort.
She felt the tension. I feel the hurt. She was a child with grown intuition and mature concerns. I am an adult with a childish desire for familial stability and unconditional support.
I am seven years old. The girl sits in her room, playing with her dolls. Her thoughts are consumed with the shouts she hears from the other side of the house. I eventually learn to tune sound out. I develop an uncanny ability to read in any noise-infused situation. She tries to preoccupy her mind, fixating on the house she has just built for her large Barbie collection. Then, comes silence. She knows something is wrong. She walks across the large house to find her mother bent over the washing machine. Her mom is crying. Her mommie—the one she loves with all her heart and soul. My mother was doing my father’s laundry as she cried over him. She loves him so much. In times of stress, my mother always resorted to what she knew—cleaning messes she made. The mother couldn’t fix her character over night, but she could fix every thing else in the house. My father has never been realistic. He expected perfection from a woman who raised herself and her little brother on her own. These are things I didn’t discover until much later on. The little girl would soon unravel the mystery of her mom’s past. She would learn the reasons for her mom’s personality traits, obsessive protective nature and intense discretion. The girl was obsessed with learning about her mom.
She knew there were secrets. I know why my mother tried so hard to keep them. The Father demanded perfection. More information was fuel for his harsh criticism.
I am five years old. The girl tells her mother, “Mommy, if you die, I’m dying with you. I never want to live in this world without you.” The mother has the best heart of anyone in this world. It’s hard for me to go back into the state of adoration I once felt for my mother. My mother was so loving and compassionate. I would lie in her arms just so she could tell me how much she loved me as she caressed my hair. It almost makes me uncomfortable to think about that now. So much has changed. The girl loves people with an extraordinary passion. I work to contain my passion every day. The girl is intense, dramatic and sensitive. I sometimes lie down and cry at the thought of losing those whom I love. She is too young for such complicated thoughts. I hope I die before everyone I love.
I am six years old. The girl holds onto her mother’s apron and follows her around the kitchen as she makes dinner for the family. I can remember wanting nothing but to protect my mother and offer her the support I thought she lacked. The girl never wants to be separated from her mother. Her father made her mother cry. He yells at her mother for her and her sibling’s shortcomings. My father never realized that we were children. We were bound to make mistakes. He never taught us how to fix our faults—he merely verbally ripped apart my mother. I am too scared to make a mistake today. I strive for perfection in all that I do. The Mother does nothing but tirelessly care for the girl and her siblings. She clothes them, feeds them and unconditionally loves them. My mother had no life outside of my family. She was the best mom anyone could ask for. She got so caught up in being a mom, and so afraid to displease my father, that she eventually forgot how to be a wife. My mother let go of herself. She never looked presentable—sweats, too large shirts and no-makeup were her daily attire. She didn’t even discover she had a thyroid issue (explaining her rapid weight gain) because she wouldn’t even make time for personal doctor check-ups.
The little girl only saw her mother’s side. Her mother’s tears.
I am nine years old. It is the girl’s birthday. Her parents got in a severe argument a couple days before. She yelled at her father for being so harsh with her mother. For being so menacing. My father was overreacting. I actually feared my father would hurt my mother. She is brave. She stands in the asphalt driveway of their little home. Facing her father. She needs lunch money, but he hasn’t spoken to her in days. He hands her a mere four dollars and tells her, “You’re not my daughter anymore. I am no longer giving you anything beyond what you need. This is for food. So I’ll give you that.” My father never treated me like a child. He never realized my childish fear of seeing my parent’s fight so aggressively. He was immature. All he saw was that I took my mother’s side. She is momentarily frozen. But she is young, so she takes the money.
She cries to herself later. I cry a little writing this now.
I am 10 years old. The girl’s mother brings her a blue coveted stationary she laid eyes on weeks before. The mother tells her that she’s earned it because of her grades and good behavior. I feel so disconnected from my previous joy now because my mother was responsible for that joy. The girl is thrilled. She counts on her mother. She is appreciative.
I can’t appreciate my mother when I’m around her.
I can’t quite grasp when it all changed. I can’t recall when my unconditional devotion to my mother transformed into a petty disdain.
I remember constant fighting. I remember being insulted and feeling inadequate. I remember being called fat. I remember being blunt and confident and ruthless. I had to be ruthless in order to maintain sanity. I remember shutting myself in my room to tune her voice out. The voice that had nothing positive to say about me. That hated me—what I became. That did it’s best to try and tear me down in an attempt to regain control of me. To break my stubborn spirit.
The spirit I inhabited from both my parents.
I remember my mother’s relentless screech—like nails on a chalkboard. I get goose bumps thinking about this now.
I am 12 years old. The girl is outside in the dark talking to her friend on the phone. “She called me fat…” The little girl will later develop an eating disorder. “She called me a bitch…” I think I’m a terribly mean person. “She told me she hated me…” I have trouble accepting love from anyone. These petty insults continue to take a toll on me today. Her mother screams at the girl from inside the house to stop telling “the world their business.” Her mother is embarrassed of her own imperfection. My mother always tries to make her world appear perfect. It’s not perfect and her mother is not perfect. The girl is hurt. Her mother is hateful, mean and antagonizing. My mother was so mean because my father was so mean to her. My mother was so mean because she missed her little companion. My mother didn’t understand what went wrong. The girl hates her mother.
I love my mother.
I am 13 years old. The girl is talking to her father. He tells her he admires her work ethic, intelligence and strength. She is different from her three siblings. She is like him. He emphasizes that the girl must do everything in her power to avoid becoming like her mother. She has too much potential. This is around the time my adoration for my mother became abhorrence. My mother constantly put me down. She became the epitome of what I didn’t want to become. The girl listens intently and nods in a naïve desire to be accepted. All she wants is her father’s approval. All I ever want is my father’s approval.
Even now that I realize his antagonist nature—all I want is for him to be proud of me. Even now that I understand what my mom went through—I cannot perceive her the same way.
The girl is so deeply hurt. I am so thoroughly damaged.
I am 14 years old. The girl is cornered in a small bathroom as her mother slaps her repeatedly in a feeble attempt to earn her respect. The mother was furious. She was earnestly trying to discipline her child. The only way she knew how. I couldn’t value my mother anymore. I couldn’t trust the person hitting me. The girl is psychologically suffering more than anything. The Mother is frustrated. She doesn’t understand why the girl is so obnoxious. If I listened to my mother, I would be accepting all that she said about me. The girl is stubborn. She doesn’t back down. She continues to scream. Eventually, she runs. I continue to run. The girl becomes vile. The girl tells her mother “If you died, I wouldn’t care. I hate you.” I feel tainted by the arguments I had with my mother. The girl sincerely believes that she no longer loves her mother. She cries all the time for fear of her mother dying with their issues remaining unresolved. I carry that same fear with me today.
The girl couldn’t believe the things she dared say to her mother. I merely repeated things my father said.
I hate writing about this. I feel like a complainer. I know the world isn’t perfect… But the young girl knows that her family’s disputes are not healthy. I know parents shouldn’t fight the way mine did.
Especially not in front of their children. It was insensitive. They were selfish.
I am 15 years old. The girl’s parents are screaming at each other. It is different this time. The mother is literally in her father’s face. She is aggressively threatening him to “hit me, HIT ME.” The father makes feeble efforts to back away, but his patience is being tested, his masculinity is being challenged. My mother has no sisters; her three brothers constantly treated her like a boy. The father finally stepped up to retaliate. The girl looked at her older brother and they both stepped in between them to mediate. I calmed my father down as my brother told my mom to “shut up!” I legitimately feared a brawl. The parents were animalistic. I now realize why my siblings and I used to fight so aggressively. The apples don’t fall far from the tree.
The girl’s mother was broken. My mother had changed. Years of criticism and harsh disapproval from my father—the husband she loved deeply—had taken a toll on her. The mother doesn’t even object when the father says he’s moving out. The mother grows more insecure. Every prominent male in her life rejected her. My grandfather literally abandoned her. My father emotionally abandoned her.
I am 16 years old. The girl’s father vents about her mother, once again, during the seven-minute drive to her school. It is 7:35 in the morning. He has no filter. I was my father’s sole confidante. My father has no family in the United States—he migrated here all alone from Lebanon when he was 20 years old. I am 20 years old now. I can’t imagine leaving everything I know to pursue a better life for my future family and myself. The father talks about his lack of sexual satisfaction, his lack of attraction to the girl’s mother, his disappointment in his life, his regret of their marriage, her mother’s weight, his hate for the Mother’s family, her unmotivated character, his utter hatred of the mother, and even, his anger with the mother for getting pregnant during their first year of marriage. My father never loved my mother. The girl questioned whether her father loved his children—their mother existed in them. He tells the girl that she must remember that the Mother is not completely bad—she is still her mother. The girl needs to try and respect her. I can’t help but think of the irony. I can’t help but sympathize with myself for my growing disrespect towards my mother. I was constantly being manipulated.
My mother never once talked negatively about my father. It is his fault I was involved. I struggle because I know how great of a person my father is. He is generous, sensitive and loving. He is just wrong for my mother. They both bring out the worst in each other.
My Father didn’t comprehend that the life he built with my Mother is the definition of my existence. The Mother’s family is the girl’s family. The Mother is apart of her. The girl cannot fathom that anyone could feel that amount of hate. The teenager exits the vehicle and slowly walks down the hallway of her large high school. She makes her way to her favorite teacher’s classroom. She sits down. And cries. She never stops crying. My tears are always internally there, beneath the surface.
She, like her mother, slowly begins to break down.
I am 16 years old. The girl has changed. There is a prevalent sadness. She understands that her parents can’t love each other. She is dealing with the pressures of advanced placement classes, club soccer and the daily hardships of being an awkward teenage-girl. She is also singlehandedly carrying the weight of her mother’s failures and Father’s unhappiness on her shoulders. She is powerless. She is unhappy. She wants her parents to divorce. She wants to stop fighting so much with her mother. She stops listening to her father. She tells him she doesn’t want to hear his complaints anymore. This is when I lost both my parents. My father took my plea to be neutral as deception. My relationship with my mother was destroyed beyond repair.
She lacked support from both of her parents. I crave their affection but shudder at the thought of vulnerability.
I am 16 years old. The cops come to the girl’s house. She overtly denies any familial problems. My father threw me against the wall a week before. The cops tell the girl’s parents that she needs intensive therapy. My mother encouraged him. The girl needed to be disciplined. She needed to learn respect. “There is something wrong with your daughter.”
There is something wrong with me.
I am emotionally compromised. My parents verbally abused me to make themselves feel better about their own lives. My mom swore at me and called me fat, terrible, evil, sick… I once cried so fiercely after being locked in my room that I broke a snow globe in the midst of it all. I don’t even remember how it broke. Everything that happened in the house was my fault according to my mother. My siblings blamed me for my parent’s problems. Even family-friends recognized her harshness towards me. My mother would hit me, but I could never retaliate. She was the Mother, and that was just wrong. So I would respond with words. I would say what was on my mind. My father merely compared me to my mother—the worst insult in his book.
I don’t feel like anything I write on this matter is worthy of being read. I don’t feel like I have a right to be heard. I don’t value myself. I never think anything I do is good enough. I am afraid of commitment. I don’t believe in love. I don’t think I am attractive. I am insecure about everything. I ask my friends constantly if they still love me. I push people away. I secretly want them to fight to stay apart of my life. I isolate myself from my family. They talk about how they will never understand me. I am too afraid to open up to my family for fear of being misunderstood.
I am 17 years old. The girl buys her own prom dress because her Mom refuses to take her shopping for it. I secretly envy my younger sister whom my mother adores. My mother bought my sister’s dress. My mother realized she was treating her children unequally, but she, like me, was too hurt to try and make it right.
I am 17 years old. The girl is still wearing her cardinal cap and gown as she greets her family after the ceremony. The girl’s mother looks at her with a melancholy that delves deeper than watching her eldest daughter grow up. There is regret, fear and uncertainty in the Mother’s eyes. The mother stopped hitting the girl a while ago. The girl agrees to take a picture with her. I was not sad to see my mother’s pain. I was too hurt from her constant neglect and intentional insults. She needs her mother. I need a mother.
I know my mother loves me. I don’t know how to let her love me.
I am 18 years old. The girl has left home. She never calls her family. The girl misses her mother. The girl goes home to visit but continuously argues with both her parents. She accepts that nothing will ever change. I love my mother, but hate her actions.
I love my father, but hate how he treated my mother. I hate that he ruined our relationship. I hate that I am so much like him. I am just as cruel. I am just as sensitive. I am just as critical.
I always make a little effort to improve my familial relationships. But my tolerance for pain is so low, that I can’t let myself be vulnerable for too long. I quickly get hurt, which translates into anger. All I reveal is anger.
I am 19 years old. It is the night before the girl’s birthday. The family is having cake at a restaurant. The girl’s mother tells her she is proud of her. She dismisses the compliment. The family criticizes the girl’s insensitivity. As if I could ever be apathetic. The family asks the girl, “Why do you isolate yourself from us?” The girl attempts to explain herself for the first time in her life. I am hurt. She takes a deep breath and looks at her parents, “Your problems took the greatest toll on me. You dragged me in the middle. My relationship with both of you changed. I think we need family therapy. There are so many unresolved issues between us all. We need to talk about it with an unbiased mediator. Only then can we move forward and become a strong family. I know we love each other. But we have communication issues.” The waiter awkwardly approaches the table. Silence. The girl’s younger brother is the only one who sympathizes with her. I often forget that my little brother lived through all of this too. He was so young. It sickens me to think of the pain he must have felt. He was forced to grow up so fast. My father vented to him after I refused to listen…. The rest of the girl’s family disregards her suggestion. Therapy is outrageous—“Do you think we’re some wealthy white family? Therapy doesn’t help anyone. You are so unappreciative of our family. You are not the only one who suffered.” The girl has no words. She gets upset and angrily responds, “just take me back to school.”
The girl cries for hours that night. I shut my entire family out. I make effort to open up, but I am dismissed. I can’t figure out how to communicate with my mother. I can’t prevent myself from getting angry with her. I lose control of myself when I’m around her. I see the hurt in her eyes when I yell at her. When I dismiss her. But I can’t stop. It’s like I am watching myself shut her out. I need her. I have so much of my Father in me that it scares her. I am the epitome of what has hurt her. I frighten her.
I begin to understand her.
My grandfather abandoned my mother when she was young. My grandmother was a less-than-spectacular example of cleanliness and organization—things my father values. My mother was forced to raise herself as my grandmother took several shifts in hopes to support her four children on her own. My mother’s grandfather committed suicide. Her older brother had a child when he was 15 years old. Someone close to the family raped my mother’s niece. I even question whether my own mother was sexually abused. My mother’s other brother abused drugs.
My mother knew nothing but chaos. My father knew nothing but order. His mom catered to him. He grew up in humble circumstances. My mother was wasteful. She spoiled us because no one ever spoiled her as a child. My grandmother had several unsuccessful marriages. My mom never knew what a relationship consisted of. My father was used to the women always conceding. My mom was a strong Mexican woman taught to never back down. This is the same tenacity that prevented my grandmother from having a successful marriage. Pride was more important than peace.
It was a recipe for disaster.
It ultimately destroyed my mother. It destroyed our relationship. That is the greatest tragedy. I remember loving her as a child. I can’t deal with her now. I am so angry and hurt. I alienate myself. I never talk fully about this. Personal realizations come in short spurts during intimate conversations with close friends. They are always sudden and quick.
My friends are always shocked. They give me a look of genuine affection. They understand me a little more. They love me. And it makes me uncomfortable.
I quickly work to repress the memory afterwards.
There is so much more. So many more details I cannot begin to explain. I am tired. So tired of it all. I can’t come to terms with my past—even through writing. This is all I have so far. These are the moments I can remember. I subconsciously work to understand myself in relation to my parents and their terrible relationship, even now, when they claim everything is better. I will never accept that they are back together. I cannot grasp the idea of my parents maintaining a marriage. I will always doubt the sincerity behind my father’s decision to stay with my mother. It was obligation.
I know too much.
I am 17 years old. The girl repeatedly defended her father after the Mother accused him of adultery. My friend later told me that she saw my Dad at the movies kissing an unfamiliar woman. My friend had no reason to lie—she thought my parents had separated. The girl’s siblings have no idea this happened. I no longer know how to perceive trust. Everything I believed was shattered that day. I have commitment issues.
No matter how hard I may try to deny it… I am the girl. And I am sad. So deeply saddened. I am incredibly hurt.
That’s the thing. The fundamental problem in my relationship with my mother. I can’t forget my past. I can’t open up to my mother in the same way I did before. No matter how hard my mother tries to make it right, I am just not ready.
There is too much guilt. I am too ashamed.
I miss my mother. I miss our relationship. I tell myself never to look back. I am looking forward. But the girl from my memory is vying for attention. She is telling me to be cautious and avoid vulnerability. She reminds me of the disputes. She reminds me of my pain. I ache for that girl. I remember her so vividly it hurts.
Sometimes I have to close my eyes to forget. To see the black-nothingness. To regain composure.
A momentary sting of sorrow—then it’s gone.
I am 20 years old. I remember myself at the lowest of lows. At the most pathetic, pitiful and heart wrenching moments. When she was cuddled into herself in fetal position with no desire to live on. Wishing only to fall downwards and spiral and become apart of the earth. To evaporate into nothing. To become air, or mist or transparent. I had to feel the complete depths of sorrow to know true happiness. To enjoy happiness. To be happy.
Only then did I appreciate my past. I was raised by both of my parents. They did the best they could. I have a home, a hot meal every day and the comfort of a bed. I feel liberated and strong. I am blessed. The girl got through the worst time of her life in order to reach this moment of bliss. She has grown. She has merely had a productive lesson. She is better because of it.
She is me. I am she. And you are me.
We are all facing the perils of life. Rather than bring another person down, lift them up. No one understands what someone else is going through. I’ve never fully explained myself to anyone.
Let’s try and love one another.
I do my best to make everyone around me feel as fantastic as they are. I do not hesitate to give compliments. I don’t care if they are excessive. My compliment could just make their day. My affection could provide a glimpse of happiness. I remember how the girl once felt, and I never want anybody to feel like her. Lonely. No one deserves that kind of pain. We are all suffering in silence.
The girl looks towards her future and I find that she is facing me. There is strength in each of her tears. Signs of renewal and recuperation. I see a beauty in her that she doesn’t yet see in herself. We are opposite one another. I am smiling.
And she is proud of me.
I am confident that one day I will make things right with my mother. For the first time, I am hopeful. The story is not finished.
At least for today, I have no more tears. This was therapeutic.