I don’t know how to write about this or talk about this or even feel about this.
My sister called me a month ago. She never calls. She was crying. Big sobs. So it didn’t matter that I was dressed and about to go out. I knew that what mattered was that she needed to be heard.
She said she owed me an apology because she was finally beginning to see exactly what my parents are capable of and that I wasn’t the bad guy or insane. She’s beginning to see it because, now that I’m gone, they’re doing it to her. She said she feels like she’s going insane. Not figuratively. Literally. Except that she’s 37 and they’re doing to her what they did to me when I was 4.
I’m the fuck up in that family. That narrative has to exist as a scaffolding for everyone else’s world not to collapse under the weight of truth. That story takes the place of all the decades I spent trying to hold everyone together. All the sacrifices I made of time, money, happiness, dignity, sanity to meet unreasonable demands.
I think about what I left behind and how long it took to finally admit that the worst possible outcome in an unknown world was better than a single second longer spent in the only world I’d ever known.
I got out…I got out…I got out.
And to hear my sister so distressed just confirmed to me that I did the right thing by me and living in a way that pleases other people is not a life in even the most generous of definitions. No one was going to save me from that life, in part, because absolutely everything was about appearances and we were all trained to make it all look good, even when it was rotten to the core. And everything was about obligation, never about love.
It was transactional. It was corrupt. It was bankrupt. I don’t know if anyone will ever know how much it took for me to become aware of it, to deprogram myself, to learn a new way, to forgive others and myself, and to build a life on that new way without constantly being bitter and angry or defeated. I have to practice this every single day because that programming was done way before I had any say in the matter and it can snap back when I’m weak.
I know for a fact that people back home are judging me. They follow me on social media but they don’t interact with me. I have no idea what they want, if they mean me harm, if they’re rooting for me or hoping I’ll fail. But I know Nogales.
This woman, whom I’ve probably spoken to less than ten times in my whole life, confronted me because she doesn’t like how I talk about where I’m from. She told me that there were good things that happen there, too, and her experience was different from mine.
Yeah, no shit. I didn’t grow up with an indoor pool and Oaxacan servants. I can’t borrow my daddy’s yacht for a cruise whenever it suits me. My family doesn’t own downtown Tucson. That’s me being a superficial asshole. That’s me letting you know who she was if you know how to read between the lines.
I’m all the way over here in NYC, thousands of miles away from her and anything sacred to her, and she still needs to tell me that my life bothers her. She feels the need to check me. Do you see why I had to get away?
Really, I don’t pretend to know what she’s gone through in life. But I’m also not watching her life and passively judging it either. The real difference is that I got booted out of the Matrix by my own self-awareness and she doesn’t even know she’s a sentinel. No one is forcing her to watch anything I make. She’s not paying me. She’s not providing me with food or shelter or comfort. If she wants to present a happier, rosier, or even more balanced picture, no one is stopping her.
I have created this life out here that is free from so much of the insidious evil that keeps people in their places back there. And I forget how vicious people can be in protecting that status quo, even when it does them damage as well. When you just want life to be pretty and nice all the time you never have to practice compassion for suffering. You can be greedy. You can be unjust.
All this is to say that, from time to time, I have to be reacquainted with fire to remember what the burn feels like. I have to remember why I sacrificed everything known to me to come to a foreign place and live a life of relative humility but infinitely more dignity and grace.
Yes, I can be dark. Yes, I can be angry. Yes, I can be all kinds of unpleasant. But, by the same token, I can find immense beauty in this carnal world. Unburdened by the demand to conform and be perfect, to stay in my place, to pretend that everything is fine, to remain silent, to absorb everyone else’s pain, to give and give and give until nothing is left and then apologize because I’ve nothing left to give…to never feel loved…here I can grow. Make mistakes. Share lessons. Act from intention instead of programming. Model how to love others. Atone for past sins by being a good person whose ripples extend beyond her grasp.
I can’t live a lie. And I absolutely refuse to censor myself. I’m not out to hurt anyone. Some bridges just need burning.