This morning, the thought came to me: this is my time. I’ve waited long enough to live the life that I want.
I’m fed up.
The last straw was extending grace and compassion to the racist, actively psychotic, and downright selfish and cruel tenant that rents a room next to mine. His current and perpetual sins are that he probably has attracted rats to this house (he’s nicer to the stray cat that he leaves food out for) and continuously smokes in his room.
I had hoped when he had a psychotic break in January and cursed me out that he would voluntarily hospitalize him–but, he didn’t. In fact, he became much worse afterward, mainly with the smoking.
And I’m really mad at the owners of this home. They keep giving themselves slack for being non-confrontational about their own home.
“I’m learning as a I go,” I heard in April.
“This is uncharted territory,” I heard last week.
I have been complaining about this guy since last fall.
So when do you actually learn how to manage a property and the people living there? They bought this place in October 2015.
Thankfully, after much shaming and cajoling on my part, the owners have terminated the lease of the human ashtray. He will be leaving by the end of the month.
I’m fed up because my act of kindness was weaponized as cruelty and neglect towards me. I really thought I had found the middle.
What I found was that I was kind of trapped in a circle of betrayal.
Well, wake-up call received.
And the call said: indiscriminate grace can actually make things worse for everyone.
Be brave, be wise.
Let people learn the lessons they need to learn on their own.
Sometimes, suffering can’t be avoided.
But this propensity started long ago, probably as soon as my brother was born. I’ve often stepped aside for others to be first, while I tended to others and neglected myself.
My brother has developmental delays. And I, being the gifted and older child, was relied upon to be OK. I didn’t need to be as fussed over or given as much attention. I had an oddly autonomous yet very restricted life.
My parents didn’t even do that great with my brother, but since he was seen as the problem, he automatically got more of the attention.
I’m glad that my brother is the way he is–even with his emotional challenges now, he has a very pure, loving heart. Yet my parents really didn’t protect or guide him as much as they could because they are narcissists. It’s heartbreaking, because you can see how their selfishness affected him, decades later.
And this narcissism really affected me.
A lot of this is cultural, as the eldest daughter of Ghanaian parents. I didn’t even know that being the third parent or second wife was really a cultural expectation. And why would I? I was born and raised in America, not in Ghana.
As a kid and teen, I really didn’t get to fully be…a kid, myself. There were a lot of opportunities that were either delayed or denied, and there were no good reasons for it.
I’m still trying to deal with those delays and denials now, over two decades later. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about them here, but the six that come to mind are:
- Starting piano lessons. I asked for four years, starting at age 8.
- Taking a trip to New Orleans with the French Club at school.
- Taking a trip to Paris with the French Club.
- Ending piano lessons after 4 years because my father thought I wasn’t serious enough (I had just one my first paying competition the day he axed my lessons).
- Not going to a slumber party where all my friends from church were. I don’t think I’ve actually been to a slumber party.
- Taking a missions trip with my youth group, right before our beloved youth pastor was going to leave for another church (my mom decided to go to Ghana for the first time, and it was assumed I’d stay home and be the lady of the house (which I really didn’t need to do).
I hate how whiny this sounds–and whether you think this sounds whiny, I don’t care about that much at all.
It’s more that even though I know why most of this happened–narcissistic parents, a father falling further into the depths of untreated bipolar disorder, and unspoken cultural expectations–it’s really hard to let this and other things go.
It wasn’t that my parents couldn’t afford any of this stuff. My dad was an ER doctor. It’s just that they simply withheld these things, things that would have enriched my life.
And this is all relative, too, because you could be reading this and not have had access to these opportunities like it I did. I definitely don’t want this to sound like poor little upper-middle-class girl. It’s what the denials and delays represented.
I’ve already told my parents multiple times how I felt about their parenting job. Of course, they weren’t thrilled to hear my side of things. They were defensive. I’m alive, educated, had a roof over my head, clothes on my back–mission accomplished! They only could see that they didn’t give me as much attention as they gave to my brother.
I told my mom recently that she didn’t really give much attention to my emotional life as a kid and she really was taken aback by that. She did not agree at all.
But I don’t really have anything to prove to them any longer. My truth is my truth. Whether they agree with it or not doesn’t matter to me anymore.
So, I’m not bitter. Anymore. Hours of therapy and prayer…and just, time…have done the work.
I’m just sad.
I was a really good kid. I never really got into trouble, did well in school. But you couldn’t tell the way my parents treated me. Hypercritical, withdrawing, yet relying on me to hear about their lives while never asking about mine.
Whether I was good or bad really was about whether I inconvenienced my family or not. I got no praise for the good, and got a lot of attention for the bad. I’m lucky that I wasn’t so desperate for attention, that I just started getting into trouble to get attention. I never wanted them to just interact with me because something was wrong.
Although they gave me many gifts, such as my intelligence and musical acumen, their obsession with blind obedience didn’t really help me to be an independent person. I had to learn independence in a piecemeal way–and it’s something I’m still learning, especially when it comes to what I can change and cannot change in my life.
All these events created grooves into my life, grooves where I actually kept putting other people first, like with this terrible creep tenant.
And it really pisses me off. I know this stuff, but it’s so hard to get out of the groove of self-abandonment.
These imprints are working on me on so many levels. There’s a pallor of grief that’s hard to wipe away. And the grief is over who I could have been if my parents hadn’t been so caught up in their own lives. I had to climb over extra obstacles to get to some semblance of sanity.
And then, as I tried to escape them, I dragged all this extra weight into college–which I had to wait an extra year for because my father was even more mentally ill–which broke me while I was struggling to pay for college.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression a couple of months after I had turned 21. all those delays and denials finally caught up to me.
Then waiting for 3 years to go back to college after I couldn’t pay. A miracle of debt forgiveness got me back in and I graduated at 26.
Then, my life continued to center around the church. I was putting up with shitty, probably racist friends in the name of community and Christ.
Little did I know that Jesus didn’t need me to do that kind of martyrdom work.
You know, maybe the greater good includes me, too?
There’s been a lot that’s been out of my control and I’ve just had to roll with it, and learning how to be flexible and accommodating is a gift–I’m grateful that it’s a part of my resilience arsenal.
But then there’s the time when you’re growing older and there are a lot more things under your control, where you’re not at the mercy of circumstance, where you don’t have to be reactive–but proactive.
I’m not under the thumb of my parents anymore.
And I can tell you, as I’ve probably said before here, that there have been a lot of repetitive events and lessons–especially in this house, mainly passivity and enabling bad behavior.
So I’m 40 now. When is all of this going to be over, then?
Can I declare that today, I will no longer put up with people’s selfishness and stick up for myself the way I’ve stuck up for other people?
I can and I will.
There’s so much of my life where I have been trying to catch up to where I should have been years ago. And if there are any little burps of anger from the past that come up, it’s around how my youth wasted on people I don’t even give a fuck about anymore and probably never gave a fuck about me.
So much wasted time and energy–and in the name of what?
There are all these Christian and spiritual platitudes about being selfless and putting others first, and, I don’t care if this sounds haughty–I was going to do that anyway.
I didn’t need some higher power telling me to be kind to others. I see the importance of kindness and selflessness.
But that innate propensity has been exploited for years and years, and I’m super big mad about it.
Also, I’m really hurt at these good intentions here in this house have backfired and made my life worse. I put someone utterly vile and contemptuous, just because he is mentally ill, first.
That was really fucking stupid.
And I didn’t do that to be a martyr or to become a saint or to get any praise or even to feel good about myself.
I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do.
But the right thing to do from now on is to be a lot choosier about who I put first–which, for now, will be me.
It’s been too long. So much waiting for my life to begin, to catch my breath, to create life, to expand outside of these four smoke-filled walls.
Maybe circumstantially, I still have to ride these waves that I can’t control.
But spiritually and energetically, today I can bring the pendulum of love in my life back to center.
I can draw a line with indelible marker and say here, look, take notice, remember, beware: I’m not putting up with shitty people or the cruel mistreatment of others any longer. They can find their own redemption on their own journeys–without me.
My journey is to be extra kind and gracious to myself–just like how I’ve been to others and have barely received it in return.
My journey is to make it up to that younger woman, who was full of promise and wonder and fire and warmth, to get back into music again, to go to Paris, to go to New Orleans again, to find friends that aren’t fickle or fairweather.
To not be someone’s extra parent or spouse. To really be my own person.
My journey is to be even more zealous with the healing of my past.
It pains me to keep bringing up old shit. I don’t want to be defined as the girl who was deprived and neglected.
I want to be the woman who was able to overcome all those things and really live, really love–even if she was barely taught how. And that is miraculous. I want to revel and dance in the glory of that bright and shining miracle…of me.
The time of enduring and waiting and overlooking and second-guessing and hoping and merely holding on is coming to a quick close.
Even if I have to will it to end, it will end.
This is my time. This is my time to embrace how whole I’ve been this whole time. And no one is going to get in the way of my joy and fulfillment ever again.
This is my time.
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