And you were waiting on the edge of the unknown
And with the cataclysm raining down
Insides crying “Save me now”
You were there, impossibly alone…
Linkin’ Park, “Iridescent”
She brushed the hair away from my face and kissed my forehead, adjusting the blanket around my shoulders, telling me to close my eyes and just rest, just until the doctor came back in.
I ignored her and watched her settle back in the chair next to the bed. “I’m so sorry.”
“Susan, if you say you’re sorry one more time, I’m going to smack you.”
Then, “You’re my daughter…”
She didn’t have to finish that sentence; I knew what meaning lingered there: You’re my daughter and I hate to see you hurting. You’re my daughter and I would do anything for you. You’re my daughter and I love you.
I knew the unspoken meaning in her words because I’d whispered the same sentiment to myself time and again: I loved my family more than anything, and I would do anything for them.
But what I was feeling was guilt. Guilt for making them worry, guilt for putting them through this — again — with me, guilt for thinking I could handle this, like everything else, on my own when I needed her.
I needed her. I needed all of them. Only, I never know how to say those words, never know how to tell someone just how much I need to hear their voice telling me they love me, how much I need someone to just sit with me, be there with me…
How much I want someone to just hold me.
But she knew. Maybe that’s the magic of moms.
She admonished me for being too independent. “Come to my house and let us take care of you,” she said as she drove me back from the fourth trip to the ER — relief that nothing was found, frustrated that there’s no concrete diagnosis. But I shook my head. I wanted the comfort of my house, my dog, my bed. I didn’t want to worry them, didn’t want them to take care of me, never even pausing to realize that maybe they needed to take care of me, too.
Maybe they didn’t realize that they were already doing what I needed most: just being my parents, my family, and loving me when I feel like I’m doing it again…
I can feel myself doing it again…
Closing up. Shutting down. Becoming numb.
Insisting that I’m OK and pretending that it’s the truth. Maybe some part of me thinks it’s easier that way; maybe some part of me thinks it’s easier to pretend you’re OK than to admit that you’re not. Maybe some part of me — some disturbed, martyr-like part of me — thinks it’s better to carry this weight on your own shoulders than to share that burden with those who are already burdened, than to trouble those you love the most.
It’s something I’d managed to convince myself when I was younger, and I’ve seen it transfer into adulthood — I long to protect people, wanting to ease their heartache and pain, trying to fix things and make it all better, and, in doing so, I take it all on myself, thinking I can handle it, thinking I can make it better. And then, when I might need that same comfort, I become so concerned with not wanting to be a burden to anyone else that I close myself off…
And so, I’ve mastered the art of pushing people away — family, friends, even my neighbors — by proclaiming I’m fine on my own, that I don’t need anything, that I can get through anything. I convince myself it’s to protect them.
When maybe it’s really to protect myself.
I’m ashamed to admit that I push people away, though I never want to, though I want more than anything to have them close.
I’m ashamed to admit how grateful I find myself when they push back.
I’m ashamed to admit that I underestimate the people I love. And I overestimate myself.
Because right now I feel broken. And this time, I don’t have anywhere else to place the blame.
This time, I can’t wonder if it’s by chance or by choice that I’m alone, because I know the answer.
I knew it when I looked over at my Mom sitting next to me in the chair in the ER, realizing how much I wanted her to make me soup and tuck me in and bid me sweet dreams. I knew it when I gratefully watched my dad mow my lawn for me, when they brought me groceries and asked again if I wanted to stay at their house for the night. I knew it when I stubbornly refused.
And I know it now, tonight, hearing my mom’s voice on the other end of the phone as she calls to check in on me, as she hears the tears in my voice — the first time in these six weeks I’ve cried — as I tell her I love her. That I’ll always love her.
And I’ll always need her.
Silent one, you…
You are not alone.
Linkin’ Park, “Not Alone”