My parents´ messages

I´m trying to write more about my family, but immediately I get a severe case of writer´s block. I can´t get any order into my thoughts, so if I ever manage to write an entry it will probably be a mess. But why exactly do I even feel the need to write something clear, structured or “brilliant”?

Because if I don´t nobody might bother listening to me. That clearly is the feeling behind this. That people don´t listen to me because my feelings are important to them, but because I entertain them. It´s not a feeling I always have when writing. The desire for writing something “brilliant” is also a genuine part of me; I simply love to write, also stories. But when I don´t feel up to it, when I´m feeling completely down, like right now, something else happens. There is the voice of my father in my head, the voice of a man who had a high position at a publisher´s house, telling me that the idea that strangers listen to me for any other reasons than for their own entertainment is cute, but naive. That I even have an obligation to put my audience before my own issues. And so I´m sitting here thinking: “Well, then pull yourself together! Write a good entry! It´s not that hard, just write something!” In my mother´s voice.

I´m not mentioning what is going on in my head in order to elicit assurances and sympathy from my readers. Since none of them know me personally, I can only assume they read my blog either because it is entertaining or because it is interesting, and actually I´m fairly proud that I can interest people in what I write. So talking about my blockades is more about what my father told me about the world, how that makes me feel, and how my mother responds to it. Which, thankfully, even brings me to my initial subject: My family. Not my issues with writing.

So, what I think my father wanted to tell me was that the masses have a short attention span and that you, as an author, have to keep them interested if you want to be successful. He phrased this in an emotionally charged, maybe even aggressive way, though. I always felt like it was an attack on me. Like he was trying to tell me: “The world doesn´t give crap about you!” It made me feel inadequate and dumb, like a naive country girl moving to the ghetto of a big, evil city, thinking her expectations of people still apply. This angered me because I didn´t see myself that way. I knew I wasn´t dumb. I was unwilling to accept, though, that “nobody out there gives a damn about me”. Still am. I still dream of proving him wrong by being just who I am and succeeding anyway. He makes me feel as if, in order to become just anything in this world, even a dishwasher, I´d have to orient myself to what “people” want. I´d have to stop being myself and start being the person that suits the others best.

His tone wavers between apologetic and aggressive, though there is a lot of disdain mixed into his apologetic tone. His message, however, remains the same: “The world doesn´t care about you. Out there, you are nothing. The unconditional attention you receive in this family is the exception, a luxury. You won´t even get that in relationships!” Unconditional attention pratically meaning that we´re sitting at the same dinner table and that he talks to me. It doesn´t even mean that he doesn´t constantly interrupt or misinterpret me. If sitting at the same dinner table and having a conversation is a luxury, then what would my life look like if he wasn´t so damn generous? And if it is an exception, what do I have to expect from people out there? Like – classmates? That they rip off my head if I don´t entertain them? Maybe not. But his portrayal of “out there” as a dog-eat-dog-world might have contributed to my shyness and my uncertainty towards others. Wow. Understatement of the month.

Trouble is, how do I prove that this is really his message and not just a warped misinterpretation of mine? Maybe I´m crazy. Maybe I have Paranoid Personality Disorder. We don´t know where PDs are coming from. People might be born with it. Maybe I was. Maybe I entered this family as a ticking time bomb; destroying a formerly harmonious three-person-household by being the poisonous, distrustful forth. The harmonious three might well agree to that version of events. It is very hard to articulate what is going on when the harm that is done to you lies in subtleties like tone and choice of words. How can you ever prove that you didn´t just hear “what you want to hear”? Something that gives you an opportunity to hold a grudge?

But let us assume for a moment that I am definitely right. That my father´s message is an attack on me. The person who tipped me off about my sister also wondered if maybe my father was loading all his self-hatred onto me. We were talking about my love for writing, and his derisive remarks about the writers he was working with. That person (I´ll need to give her a name soon) asked if maybe he had wanted to become a writer as well. I think it is very possible.

I also think it is very possible that his telling me that the world doesn´t care about me is an expression of his disappointment and anger at the world not caring about him. Or not caring the way he wants it to. Ironically, my mother keeps on admonishing me to be more caring towards my father, ever since I was 8 or 9.

Even as a kid, I used to be sarcastic towards my father, or even disdainful. While I was scared of him, I never had any respect for him; nor did I like him a whole lot. So when he entered the flat, he often asked “Well?” in an expectant tone. It wasn´t an unfriendly tone per se, I just never knew what he wanted to hear. Was it a way of asking “how are you doing?” or “what´s going on?”? I have no idea. When I was 8 or 9, though, I used to imitate him, saying “well?” when he entered the flat. My mother told me to be nicer to him, since “he has feelings, too, you know!” That intervention wasn´t necessarily wrong in itself, but if you consider that she didn´t intervene when he yelled at me or even hit me (which happened only once), you get the impression that his welfare was more important to her than mine. Or that she felt caught up between two people who were having a conflict and that she thought it was easier to make me give in.

Which brings me back to her imaginary reaction to my writer´s block. “Well, just write something! Pull yourself together!” So, first of all, my problems don´t matter. I just have to pull myself together, there is no doubt I can do it. It turns out I can, since I´m writing this entry, but it takes up a lot of my energy and I feel as if I´m treating myself like trash. It feels like I´m telling myself “I don´t matter.” Which is absurd because I´m writing down this stuff in order to get better. I write it for the cathartic effect it often has. It is crazy how the messages I received can sabotage my efforts at undoing them to an extent that making these efforts reinforces the messages.

Then there is the “just write something” part. It speaks volumes of her disregard for what I do. It doesn´t matter if what I write is true. It doesn´t matter if it helps me or not. I just have to write something. Which renders this blog a few pages of worthless waffling. Something that is a nice hobby, but doesn´t have any real value. A place where you can cheat.

It isn´t a hobby to me. Sometimes it is my only hope. It is my “safe place that belongs to me alone where I can reflect on everything”; it is what therapy was supposed to be. (By which I don´t want to say that I expect my readers to be my therapists.)

And yet I constantly have to reclaim that place. I have to reclaim my right to reflect and to look for the truth instead of “just writing something”. I have to defend my belief that there is a truth that goes deeper than “you are just a spoiled white middle-class child in a society that celebrates a culture of victimhood”, deeper than “you are just seeking for excuses for your inadequacy”. In order to write entries like the last one, I have to believe that there is something wrong with my family and that this something isn´t me. Or at least not me alone.





One Response to “My parents´ messages”

  1. vicariousrising Says:

    I find your introspection entertaining. Isn’t that cute? Whatever. The publishing world has its head up its ass. I’ve been in and around it for awhile now. They are so caught up in their egos as the “gatekeepers of culture” that they miss what real people are like. The world is passing them by.

    Anyway, you usually make me think and that’s a good thing. I also related to your description of yourself as a possible time bomb in your family. I once wrote that I “blew the known into the unknown” by being born to my mother. I’m a pretty big disappointment and scary person to her.

    It seems to me you’re asking the right questions of yourself. Don’t know where it will take you, but maybe you’ll be able to discern what is yours and what is theirs.

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