I am going to preface this blog with the fact that it is sensitive. If you feel like you might be triggered by violence and/or domestic abuse, this might be the time to stop reading. I apologize to anyone who knew my mother in a different way than I knew her (which is absolutely everyone), if this paints a different picture than how you knew her. I am so glad to read all the comments on social media of how she, as a teacher in the Deerfield Public School system, made a difference to her kids there, and how she positively impacted their lives.
On Friday, February 24, my father killed my mother.
While this is personal, it is not private. I spent many years being secretive and pretending my life was okay, and then I spent many years being more outspoken about mental health; about domestic violence; about healing. In many ways, speaking out about my childhood and its effects on my life has been part of my healing. In other ways, it’s to help other people heal. So that someone who might have had lived something that parallels my own experience knows they are not alone. Because shame flourishes in silence, and withers when shared.
While I write a lot about my travels and my adventures in my blog, it’s not solely for that. These are, ultimately, essays about my life, and this is now a part of that narrative.
What I want to say today is something I have learned in the last 15 years: The Art of the Pivot. In a previous blog, I mentioned something that was a fleeting exchange between myself and my friend Jeff. It was in regard to my house in Whitingham, VT, but I think it applies to every aspect of life. He said to me, “If it doesn’t bring value or joy to your life, pivot.” I took that, sold my house and created a new version of my life for myself. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve pivoted in my life, but the first time I thought of it in that way, and I will never be without that in my back pocket again.
I’ve wished it for her before, but today more than ever, I wish my mother had learned The Art of the Pivot. I wish she had found the clarity and strength in her mortal life to make it different than it was. I’ve spent the better part of the last decade without contact with either of my biological parents. I’ve spent the better part of the last decade being angry at both of them. Being angry at my mother for not protecting me and my sister. For not acknowledging what she allowed my father to put us all through. For not standing up for her kids or herself. It is much harder today to be mad at her.
I wish that she’d had the opportunity that (in my mind) she surely must have wanted. What I know is that she wanted love. To be loved. Isn’t that what we all want, ultimately? Don’t you want someone who sees you in your rawest, truest, grossest form, and says, “I see you and I accept you and I love you.”? I do.
In my mind (and yes, let’s keep in mind that this is my own personal, warped, biased, skewed interpretation of her), she probably thought that staying with my father was the embodiment of this. She was either deluded, or able to constantly overlook everything that he put his family through (and I will say this is in part due to his mental illness, which, to me, can explain certain things, but is not an excuse for chronic abuse and/or bad behavior).
I’m sure she was scared. Yet I’ve never forgiven her for not being braver. I wish she had seen that she wasn’t as stuck as I have chosen to believe she thought she was. I wish she had pivoted. I wish she’d seen that this life that she’d created wasn’t serving her. That it wasn’t bringing her the joy she pretended it was. And changed it.
Or maybe I don’t.
Maybe I wish that she actually was as happy as the front she put on in the life that she chose. I hope that I’m completely wrong, and that what she was actually experiencing in her life brought her value. Joy. That she was stupidly, blissfully, happily in love with the man that she chose, up until the moment when he shot her.
It would be nice to say that what happened on Friday was surprising, but that’s not the truth. It’s incredibly sad. It is, and likely will be for a long time to come, difficult to wrap my head around. It’s different than a parent just dying. We all expect that. We expect our parents to die first; that’s the natural order of things. I don’t know how I would feel if she had died from natural causes of some variety. I’ll never know that now, because it will always be overshadowed by that detail…… that the partner she chose in life, the father of her children, killed her.
I wish now for my mother only Peace. Freedom. Joy.