Anne Lamott said “Write as if your parents are dead.” In an attempt to save people from your truth, you censor yourself from writing about your pain. This pain has made you you and may have been caused by them. And this mutes your most important story. And now Their Shames have become yours. You were made complicit to their crimes against themselves and to you. If you tell, you’ll be bad. Ungrateful. Naughty.
She added, this, “Remember that you own what happened to you. If your childhood was less than ideal, you may have been raised thinking that if you told the truth about what really went on in your family, a long bony white finger would emerge from a cloud and point to you, while a chilling voice thundered, “We *told* you not to tell.” But that was then. Just put down on paper everything you can remember now about your parents and siblings and relatives and neighbors, and we will deal with libel later on.”
I say, let them sue me. I’ve got nothing left to lose. I’m not that close to my parents. Is my debt payed off. Or do I have to keep the shame silence to their grave and then tell all.
I hardly ever speak about my family. Once when I did, I got calls from both of them to let me know they did not appreciate being spoken of. Even if what I said was true, that’s not what we do. And I got another call out from my Aunt blasting me for my lack of gratitude. I’ve been given so much, that should buy my devotion and silence.
I feel my heart ache when I read stories about people who are close to their parents. Who grieve the loss of their parent as a piece of themselves leaving the earth. I feel for and admire them for their grief. Perhaps I should say envy them.
Maybe Anne Lamott had self-involved parents too. I have yet to delve into her works as much as I might like. Got busy birthing a baby right around the time when women start their introspective reading journeys in earnest.
I am trying my hardest to make sure that my daughter and son both know I love and support them, that what they seek in the world is both out there and inside them. I am just a cheerleader. It’s about them not me. Khalil Gibran’s poem ‘Children’ says it all:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you, they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite.
And He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hands be for happiness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
So He loves the bow that is stable.
Do your best and let go of the rest. If you’re not helping, you’re hurting. And do unto others…
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