Blame my medications, blame my age, but these days I don’t have many memories of my childhood. I suppose that my mind is so consumed with this disease that I fight it simply doesn’t have room for the little details of the life I have led.
But I distinctly remember being a young girl and helping my mother with the dishes. My job was simple, as dictated by my age; I loaded the dishes as my mother rinsed them in the sink I could not reach. It was all very normal and shouldn’t be a memory; on the surface it just takes up space in my mind. But I remember clearly the day I learned a very personal and very important lesson – sometimes good things shatter.
I can remember that soapy, slippery glass in my hand. I remember that despite the warmth from the water it still felt cold. I remember that it seemed so strong; I couldn’t take it away. I remember the clearness of the glass and the ability to not only see the world but a distorted world that seemed to make more sense. I can remember believing that my hands were big enough to capture that glass in one hand. I remember my mother admonishing me to be careful and I remember the feel of that glass slipping though my fingers like hope on a dark day.
No matter how many times I repeat that memory in my brain the glass always takes the longest time to fall to the floor. Like in movies or those dramatic television shows that may seem unreal but capture our attention, the glass seemed to simply float to the floor. Being rather young I couldn’t anticipate what would happen when the glass hit those tiles. There was no way to prepare me for the beauty of broken pieces being formed.
But the glass did break in a thousand pieces. It wasn’t capable of gluing itself back together and yet there was an awesome enchantment in that broken moment of time.
We aren’t glass. We are neither made of glass nor do we have many of the same properties as glass. Well-wishers and the doctors that surround you would actually have you believe that a heart can’t be broken. Those good-hearted people who have no concept what mental illness actually is would like you to believe that we are built to heal, to forgive, to find some sort of peace in the mundane aspects of everyday life.
We are taught that we are only to walk a path that is laid out in front of us. While some of us are strong enough and possibly insane enough to take a different approach, the majority of us have been forced on the path of conformity our whole lives. It is never quite spelled out that way; but whether we are talking about parental expectations or fate, or even simply human wires, we follow the paths laid before us. It is our duty and we follow that duty until our lives take on the depressing reality of the mundane.
Those expectations don’t care if you are mentally incapable of getting out of bed. Those responsibilities don’t care if you have a disease that literally makes dreaming painful. Those conformists don’t know what it is like to see brilliance, or hear the musical equivalent of flying, or even to close ones eyes and fight that which is not there. Those expectations exist whether you can breathe or not.
I would like to say that I can fight those ghosts. I would love to be able to close my eyes and tell you that the path I travel is not burdened with those I love’s ambitions. Maybe it is unfair to ask to be someone that deep inside I have always been. Maybe it is not fair that I sit here in front of a computer with my eyes closed dreaming of a life that I don’t have the strength to fight for. Sometimes I believe that life is waiting for me but my ability to look beyond the boring years passing me by is impossible.
I would tell you that the greatest expectations pointed my way happen to be from myself. I have been literally programmed to believe that certain aspects of my life should look exactly like those around me. My marriage, my home, my clothes, my manners should in no way create a neon sign that points my way.
This could be because life has shown me that people don’t forgive. This could be because this world has taught me that no matter who I really am I will never be enough. Because of the medications I take, because of the world my mind tries to make me choose, I will never be like the rest. So I have to try harder. Maybe it is out of fear, maybe it is simply out of the painful stabs that this world keeps taking.
I have to fly above the clouds longer. I have to step into the shoes of the greatest family members that surround me. I have to allow the universe to dictate my truths and come to terms with a God that dislikes the very person he made. I have to run not with the pack but behind the pack because that is where they have taught me is my place.
And then like that glass, I simply shatter.
My father came into town this weekend for Easter. Not a bad guy, my father is incapable of seeing any deformities in his child. For my father I am the brilliant, beautiful embodiment of himself. Don’t get me wrong my mother isn’t much better but I haven’t had a moment to shatter around her lately. For my parents I am the best of them and I am expected whether sitting at a funeral or sitting at the dinner table to act in a way that despite my age they still dictate. There is a world and my parents have placed me exactly where they want me to be. And I am suppose to stay.
But I keep slipping through everyone’s fingers. I keeping hitting that wall, that floor, and shattering into a hundred cutting and dangerous pieces. I am suppose to maintain a certain mold and allowing the pressures of my own mind to come down on me is unacceptable. I am not allowed to cut or step on the glass I know will hurt me. I am not allowed to yell or cry in frustration, I couldn’t do it at five, and I certainly cannot do it today.
So I act. I act my little heart out. I act and smile and work to keep my mouth shut. And I do this whether it is Easter or whether it is a Saturday in August. To my parents I am managing my disease very well, they are proud of me, and they expect me to keep it up.
But there is no way to keep up an illusion. You can for a moment, for a weekend, but ultimately no matter how hard you hold on that glass will slip through your fingers and shatter. Go ahead move towards the carpet, or bend down close to the floor, it won’t matter that glass is going to shatter.
We are nothing if not what our minds determine we are. Our paths are laid out long before we are ever born but it is deep in our own minds that the glass shatters. Where our parents, those who say they love us, those who look at us and never see, decide to focus is never where the wound forms. And it isn’t until we finally break open the outer most layer of our skin with the shards from that glass that anyone pays attention.
And then in our death we feel the punishment of finally disappointing those who decided that we were supposed to live.