This is the part I don’t want you to see. It would be so much easier to stay invisible, and not set obscure questions I ponder sometimes out there in the breezy air to flutter around . . .
It’s my fault. I’m sorry.
These phrases course through my blood like cancer cells.
I feel like they’ve always been there.
That I was born with them inside me: it’s my fault. I’m sorry.
As an intuitive person, one with more empathy than any one person should have, I’m always sensing, always alert to how others are in a situation and to the unspoken vibration of moments. “It’s my fault/I’m sorry” is my go-to emotional response, when a moment feels charged, uneasy, subtly dangerous.
My stomach muscles tighten, and my mind scurries across the past several minutes, back and forth, scanning, scanning: Why is she not smiling? Why is he not talking? What did I do wrong? Why is he yelling? Why is he in that room with the door closed? What did I do wrong?
I remember my 3rd grade teacher once stopped in the middle of yelling at some other student and looked straight at me: “Am I yelling at you, Colleen? No, I’m not yelling at you. You didn’t do anything wrong.” To her, I must have looked slapped in the face or terrified or something, I don’t know, but she could visually see I was reacting to her anger, even though it wasn’t directed at me.
So I know these things about myself now. I spend time consciously reeling back this initial and irrational response I feel I was born with.
It takes energy and focus, but I’m doing it.
One day at the page, I began to reflect about this and a series of questions unfurled from my pen . .
Do you think an unborn baby can sense its unwed mother’s secret thoughts and prayers? Her heartbreak, her shame her sadness? (Go away, go away, dear God, make this go away . . . )
And then, do you think it’s possible for this same unborn baby to grow up into a girl and then into a woman, yearning to be seen but never to be too much of a bother? To feel, at her core, that she shouldn’t take up too much space, be too big. And that she must please and protect – like some unspoken penance for causing this shame and suffering, this derailment of her mother’s then-intended life?
How is it possible to discern the beginning? Where is it? When does one’s story start?
Postscript: I’m happy to take the blame for my parents’ marriage. In October 2016, they will celebrate 50 years together.