Let me start off by saying that I love my parents. I’m appreciative of all of their sacrifices on mine and my brother’s behalf. And, ya know what? Despite the fact that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the therapist’s chair extolling the great ruin of my childhood, I wouldn’t trade it for any other childhood. Some things, you love simply because they’re yours.
The thing is, my parents stress me out more than anyone else. Unintentionally and ignorantly, sure. And with good intentions, always. But nevertheless, holy crap, do they make me wanna run away and join another circus (since our family is already one, if ever I saw one).
Right now, I’m in Brooklyn, at my might-as-well-be-MIL’s house, lounging around in a well-ventilated room and consuming as much cable and internet as I can before I’m back at my folks’ place. I feel like a prized pet: well-fed, given ample attention, and provided with all the play-things I could possibly want. And yet… Somehow, I’m not enjoying this as much as I used to enjoy it. Somehow, there’s something amiss.
Somehow, I can’t help but blame my parents for this.
See, I’m living at my folks’ place until I move to the Philippines, and as much as they love me and provide for me, they can’t seem to find it within themselves to at least pretend to care about each other. Not that I’d prefer the fakeness, per se. (Or maybe I would. The jury’s still out.) But their blatant dislike of each other really takes its toll on the running of the household and on my emotional well-being. Bills don’t get paid in time because of a lack of communication. The house is a shambles because both of them work like dogs and don’t have the time to commit to cleaning. I get stressed out and downright depressed from my inability to “fix everything” in the house. And all of that negativity surrounding me? I deal with it by accusing Rob of treating me the way my parents treat each other – even though my feelings are completely based on their problems and not ours.
This past weekend was chock full of my crying jags, and why was I having so many of them? Because Dad treats Mom like crap, and Mom still just wants Dad to love her, and really, it’s depressing. Really, really depressing. Because I can’t do anything about this and I know that I can’t do anything about this. Because I look at my father, who’s really a genuinely good guy, and I can’t imagine what could possess him to treat my mother so poorly. Because I look at my mother, who’s a genuinely amazing human being, and I can’t imagine why she keeps on taking this kind of abuse. Because I look at them and I wonder if it’s inevitable that love sours or disappears or is replaced by some strange loathing.
And then I try to talk to them, and the guilt comes. Guilt for “abandoning” them and their problems so that I can attempt to make a better life for myself. Guilt for not having been an easy child to raise. And always – always, always, always – guilt for not being able to make things better. For not being able to keep a perfect household – immaculately clean and with food on the table 24/7 – while being pregnant. For not being able to be the glue that holds our family together. For not knowing how to let my parents know that I don’t always understand them, but that I’ll always love them, and that really and truly, I’m sorry for any pain I’ve ever caused.
For the most part, I live each day with the confidence that I’m doing right by me, and that that’s what matters. But when these guilt trips happen – and they happen often these days – I’m reduced to a sniveling child, unable to understand what’s going on around her. Even after being plied by love and affection by Rob and my friends, and reminding myself of my parents’ love for me, I can’t help but feel like I don’t deserve some time to relax. I can’t help but feel like I don’t deserve to be happy. How could I? The two people upon whom I’m based have never found relaxation or contentment, let alone happiness. What makes me think that I deserve a quiet evening at Rob’s mom’s house, watching TV, spending time on the internet, and not having to worry about keeping house or keeping my parents from falling apart?