Let It Work

I went outside and laid in my back yard for a half an hour or so, in the dark, just staring up at the mostly light polluted sky, waiting, occasionally, for a star to wink at me or an airplane to fly over.

It’s hard to think about anything when you’re flat on your back on the ground, so I didn’t. I just cried a little bit and then I watched the black tree branches against the dark gray sky. And then I just laid there until I felt better.

I came back in the house and every time I started to feel anxious or sad, I just repeated to myself, “let it work.” Let the calm from laying on the ground looking at the dull sky do what it will do to me.

Eventually I went to bed. In the middle of the night, I woke up to this revelation. It may not be a revelation to those of you following along at home, but it was not something I had realized.

Every time something good happens to me, my family finds a way to ruin it, to knock me back down a peg or two. I don’t know if they do it consciously or not, but I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Hell Thanksgiving followed on the heels of my Best of Nashville stuff.

I’m afraid that, if they move here, they will ruin all my good stuff.

I think I would rather tank my whole life–ruin it myself before they can–than let them take this from me. And I had some pretty spectacular ideas about how to tank my life, ones that would have been deeply unfair to my coworkers. But things that would have taken me and this place off the table in terms of places they could go.

But, if they go to Georgia, they will suffer and they will have worse care than they would if they lived near me. I’m not trying to be a dick about my brother, but that’s just true. He won’t provide the level of care I’d provide.

Even if that level of care destroyed me emotionally.

Everyone knows it. My parents know it. My aunts and uncles know it. If you take my well-being out of the equation and you’re just looking at what’s best for my parents, obviously they should come here.

I’m not sure I’d survive that. Not mentally, anyway.

But the idea that I would encourage them to go where I know they’d get poorer care, where I know they would suffer some neglect, just because I want my good life? It feels so fucking selfish that I can’t stand it. It feels like my soul is being torn in two to even admit that out loud.

There’s a difference between making a lifeboat, putting the Butcher in it, and rowing with him away from the sinking ship and kicking your parents into the ocean so that you can stay in your lifeboat unbothered.

And when I try to weigh the right thing to do here, when I try to figure out what it is, exactly, I want to do, the thing I run straight into is that there are some very fundamental parts of myself that I don’t have good access to.

I have been trained since birth to be… I don’t even quite know how to put it into words… some kind of courtesan (?). It has been my job to be charming and cooperative and capable (but not so capable it makes men feel bad) and to make people like me. I’m witty. I’m fun to talk to. I know a lot of interesting things and can tell you about them in fun ways. I can keep a crowd occupied and delighted.

I find comfort in being able to do those things well. It feels familiar and I can just do it without having to think too hard about it. And I know if a lot of people like me, then I have a level of safety. And, I think, too, that I enjoy feeling like I have a huge web of people I can access if I need anything.

But do I like any of those things? Being in crowds that find me delightful? Charming people who otherwise would disregard me? Etc. Etc. Etc.

I don’t know.

In some ways, I suspect that I don’t. I mean, if you look at how I’ve arranged my life when I’m not thinking about it, it doesn’t look like it. I don’t like to have people over. I don’t seek out crowds. I prefer to spend a lot of time alone, because when I’m alone, I don’t have to be any way.

But my point is that all my training, the way I live my life around others, is to provide others comfort and delight. It makes me feel satisfied to be able to do that. I know it’s a skill and I take pride in being good at it.

But I don’t think I would have chosen for myself to have those skills. Or maybe I would have. I don’t know. You can’t run two versions of your life simultaneously to try to get a better feel for what’s some core you and what’s training. Nature vs. nurture. If science hasn’t figured it out, I’m not going to, you know?

But I suspect I would not have.

I am this way, at least in part, because my parents trained me to be, because my being like this was useful to them.

This feels like a lot of threads to try to pull together here at the end.

But, if my way of being with others was instilled in me by my parents because it was useful to them, then, obviously, some amount of distress I feel about not wanting to care for them even though I could and I would be the best choice, is distress they wanted me to feel in times like this.

I am supposed to put the family’s well-being ahead of my own. In fact, me being too well (or having too much well-being) is taken as proof that I am not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. If I’ve got this great life, it’s because I’m not spending the emotional capital I should on them. My great life is evidence of me cheating at my chores, so to speak.

But what if I am running both simulations? What if my good life here is one way my life could go and how I feel when I’m with them is another way my life could go? In both simulations, I do not want to give them any more access to the parts of myself I like–even if those parts are dramatically different sizes in either options.

I don’t think I can save myself from them and save them from themselves.

And I think I’m on the verge of betraying my whole upbringing and my aunts and uncles who want what’s best for my parents. And my parents. My family.

I think I’m on the verge of putting them in harm’s way to save myself.

And I feel like an obscenity, like a monster. Like what kind of person would do this?

Probably me. I think me.