I’m waking up after something that feels like a very long nap. I tossed in my sleep for the first time eighteen months ago. I call it tossing in my sleep… really it was just waking up one day and realizing that I hated everything. It dawned on me that the route I had taken in life was leading me straight towards loneliness and bitterness – not liking anything, not caring about anyone, not being cared about. It seemed that I was built perfectly for this. I was intelligent, but biased. I was opinionated, but I didn’t listen to anyone besides myself. I was strong, but I wasn’t careful. I was charming, but manipulative. I was supportive, but also a bully. I was engaging in conversations, but hated when the subject changed away from me. I worked hard, but only when it suited my needs. I made love, but not always to the one I loved.
For some reason I absolutely loathed that I wasn’t getting the attention I felt I deserved. The place I was at didn’t do me right. This didn’t make me proud at all, and I could see that the pattern of not feeling satisfied was something that I’d carried with me all the way from childhood. I decided to go back and explore my past, to see what kind of treasures I could unearth. I won’t skip straight to the end, but I will tell you this… when you go digging through the dirt, your primary findings will be shit!
It all became a mining expedition where I dug for anything of interest. I was a stone-age guy with some new found tools, and I discovered all these amazing artifacts, that I didn’t know what was, but I reckoned they might be useful, so I kept them around until I could figure out what to do with them.
I didn’t find the good stuff at first. Some artifacts I had been carrying around for a long time, but I couldn’t connect them to anything. Mostly I would just stick my face into the before mentioned piles of shit, sniff around, and be very unhappy with the sensation. I would then share my displeasure with the people who happened to be around at the time. I don’t think anyone enjoyed these moments of sharing. I would become so focused on shit, to the point where it was all I could see… and sometimes it was. It would spread out before me like an uninterrupted vein of light-reflecting feces. Everywhere I looked, memories of pain would unveil themselves, but I couldn’t leave. It had begun, and I was covered in shit. Who the hell would want me, looking like that?
I like the parallel to Bastian from The Never-ending Story who in a later chapter goes digging through Fantasias underground, looking for a piece of glass bearing the image of one powerful forgotten memory – which is the artifact that will send him home. Like Bastian I found many memories underground. Like Bastian, most of the important ones bears the same reference – our parents.
I have an older sister who for some reason have always had a difficult life. She’s overweight. She hasn’t taken care of herself, so her teeth is kinda funky. She’s been unemployed for a number of years. Her adult life contains not a single friend that she grew up with – same for me actually. Both me and my sister live almost totally cut off from our family, only seeing them once or twice a year… a difficult task in a country as small as Denmark. The attitude towards my sister has been as follows: “When are you gonna pull yourself together and get a fucking life?” This question, and more like it, has been directed to my sister in what must have seemed like an unending invasion of her pride, her independence, her skills, her intellect and her personality. We didn’t talk about the invasion. We only talked about her teeth and about how disappointed my father was with her lifestyle choices.
My mother is the daughter of a drug-user, whom I’ve never met. She apparently died of an overdose of pills when my mother was fourteen. My grandfather remarried a woman with three children of her own, and when he did, my mother and her pregnant older sister was evicted from their home. My sister and me used to think our grandmother died from cancer. I was thirty years old before my mom told me the truth. My grandfather is dead now. I don’t know when that happened. I can’t even remember his voice.
My father is the son of an abusive alcoholic, whom I’ve also never met. He died three months before I was born. Apparently he beat the crap out of my father, my three aunts and my grandmother whenever he was drunk. I can’t remember ever hearing anyone saying they miss him, or that they wished that he was still alive… not even my grandmother. The first time I felt honesty in a family member’s declaration of love was at age twenty-six, when my grandmother, at her deathbed, greets me with the words: “My beloved Thomas, you came to see me!” When I was a kid, my grandmother was a beacon of peace. She never questioned me when I played with the dresses in her closet, and she let me watch morning TV cartoons until my head hurt.
At age thirty-six I realize that I don’t know my family. The idea I have about family has nothing to do with the one I grew up in. I view them through tinted glasses, and when I take them off, I see people shaped by alcohol, violence, bullying, lies, fear of reprisal, fear of rejection, self-loathing, ignorance and pain…. and it appears that I am just like them. Fuck!