How much of a claim do I have on my own life? Memories are permanent and I cannot help but have them jump to direct consciousness when I pass a familiar place, smell, person etc. Giving these memories voice distresses my family. I so very rarely make mention of trauma and abuse; I have to act as though hundreds of events simply never happened for the comfort level of the perpetrators.
I feel like their anger is manipulation and denial. I am a writer, and a writer of non-fiction. I am being denied access to my own history, my own ability to process events and emotions. Am I to make a choice between family and a healthy emotional life? I have not been aware of this choice which makes me think that I have been voting against myself for a long time.
Publishing the truth would hurt and embarrass many people. Is that reclaiming wholeness or seeking retribution?
About to be Disowned (Again)
Dear About to be Disowned (Again),
This doesn’t happen to Fury very often, but: I read this and I wanted to give you a hug.
How much of a claim do you have on your own life? The whole damn deed, that’s how much. It’s your life!! If you want to lock it away or turn it into art, that’s your business. And, although memories can be fluid, and can differ from person to person, they still belong to the brain that holds them, and you can do with them what you want. So there’s a lot that goes into that, and a lot of choices to be made, but I need to once again remind you: The whole damn deed, that’s how much.
Solving this crisis comes down to what you are willing to give up. I am deeply sorry to hear of your childhood trauma and abuse. Your responsibility is to heal from trauma however you need to, and you don’t owe it to anybody to keep yourself fucked up just so they don’t have to feel uncomfortable or guilty. It’s like cutting off the split ends, right? Some of your hair might be gone, but what’s left is healthier. You may need to cut certain people out of your circle so that your psyche can mend.
Of course, this is much easier said than done. A friend of mine took in a foster child who had been horribly beaten and otherwise abused by her mother for years. This child finally had a stable environment, regular meals, someone who cared about her whereabouts and dressed her appropriately for school and, yet, she cried every night because she missed and loved her mother so deeply. It seems that, no matter what our families have done to us, there is that primal part of us that wants their love and approval, and can’t handle the idea of being disowned (again). Even Fury (who, like all Scorpions, was hatched from an egg and almost eaten by her mom) feels the conflict of rage and sadness that you likely are feeling in your own life.
Now, sure, I’m just assuming that the trauma and abuse you mention is serious enough for your family to want to keep it hidden. If what you write about is how your parents never took you to Chuck E Cheese as a kid, well, maybe your family is just trying to save you from a really boring memoir. But something tells me this is serious shit you’re talking about and Fury knows from serious shit. I’ve struggled with many of the same issues you are struggling with now; eventually what I realized is that I write what I write, and if people can’t deal with that then they can’t deal with me. By which I mean, if your family is denying you the right to WRITE, to do the thing that saves you, feeds you, makes you You, then they are still abusing you and holding you down. Yes, what you write might hurt them, embarrass them, etc, and they have their own right to handle it as they will, but please don’t let them take away the thing you love. What you do, my dear, is art. You are not publishing crap in the local tabloid called “Read All About It! The Smith Family is Majorly FUCKED UP!”
My sense is that you wrote me to me hoping there would be a better solution but also knowing that there wouldn’t be. The choice is just as you say it is: between your family and your emotional life. This is not a choice you want to make, but, as you point out, memories are permanent, and so it may be a choice you have to make, your family being as manipulative as they are. It’s time to call their bluff. It’s a crappy choice, but it is what it is. Do you live without your passion or do you live without your blood? I would strongly argue that if you choose your family you are choosing a path of longing, resentment and rage. If you choose your art, at least you will have ownership and control over your own emotions and your own story.