When you spend 33 years steering your ship with the same beliefs, illusions, escape mechanisms, denial and self defeating behaviors, you know how to steer, because its the way you were taught. It’s the way you always have done, the way your parents and even their parents taught, a map passed down with just one compass, a set group of working members that trust you to steer the way they taught.
Rejecting their way of navigation is to reject them, to question that any idea outside the script they have written for you is rebellious and ungrateful. By asking to maneuver this ship, your own, the way you hope, the way you dream, causes narcissistic panic and rage, for such a request slaps ingratitude, defiance, and no amount of love by either party changes this fact at all.
It is their fear of all fears, to lose control.
But you cannot dance for them, steer for them, look at a map that has nothing to do with you and pretend you are doing a job GOd made you for, not even for the love you feel for them.
It is too great a cost.
Trying only comes with their reminders of your past navigations, life boats of passengers that would leave, that little failed marriage, financial irresponsibility, their hearts heavy with concern, so naive and desperate for love and approval, you believe them.
The drama and unhealthy anxiety and loss of weight and who had to bear such a thing watching you destroy yourself?
Your heart sickened and you would agree especially when the trump card fell, like how your children were at stake, and as my mother said when I excitedly announced my acceptance to Photography school, “But honey, your children need you. A good mother knows you can’t ever get back your children’s childhood.”
But I had waited till Lola was in Kindergarten, my heart felt it true that I had real gifts, people had told me about my writing and photography, something my mother claimed she wouldn’t read.
It was just too unbearable for her.
Not to mention being the family laughing joke, the dating disasters, financial dependence, and so you went along, so you laughed with them.
So crazy, how could YOU be qualified to run your own ship?”
They meant to shut up, find a good man, stop causing drama, and do not ask questions that make them feel, look, or examine pain, but one last thing. DO not take front seat or that would mean that they may be put out of a job, a job they invested 33 years in keeping. One thing I have learned is that nothing is more important than their own illusion of control, that you somehow are responsible for the emotions, existence, needs, and life path of another simply by being born.
In your birth, you are their ownership.
But, what if they were right?
They always were.
Could you possibly be that arrogant, even crazy, to believe that something inside you knows more?
Read their map, take passenger seat with their compass, and they promise, you will always be safe, loved, and in God’s loving hands.
In many small moments of defiant self assurance and your own part brave, part powerful, part narcissistic inner guidance, you throw the compass over the side, rip their perfect map and do horrible things like go to school, take on boyfriends not of their knowledge or choosing, at 33 mind you. You refuse calls, break cars, and cry over missing your babies.
They tell you that this is abuse, this defiance of role, the writing, and you failed them by not taking the destination they paid and invested financially and emotionally for you.
In your young naive attempt for all that you have fought for, you throw up the middle finger, rip their map, not just in half with a clean line you can tape back later for emergency, but in many teeny pieces throwing them up in the air.
You clearly have no idea what you have done.
They watch in horror, announce insanity, and so you hear the many heartbreaking lies from the ones who KNEW you, who were watching, who cried and held you, so you dive deep in denial as your reputation is smeared, like a knife you know is cutting and bleeding in your back, but you refuse to pull out.
Sometimes pretending the pain isn’t really there is less painful than the wound itself.
And sometimes, this exact point causes you to never fully examine your wounds, your life, your loved ones, I believe, is a promise that you will in fact, become them.
The repair is not possible you realize as your heart slices to pieces, your children are no longer called or seen, even the ex that supported them is deleted next to you off of facebook, birthdays and holidays are ignored, with the exception of a lovely card, only for the grandchildren, who have been left to you for the explanation of why an entire extended family, aunts uncles and cousins, are gone. I couldn’t bare it. My babies most claimed to being loved were now pawn to a woman who claims I will not let her see them.
And so, you have what you have asked for, a ship, gulp, and no one to control the many anchors and nets, food preparations, or storm safety regulations.
You have a few passengers to take leadership of, all watching with careful scrutiny as to how this captain will maneuver without any map, an illogical quest for certain, and you can feel some of them smug at their obvious belief you will hit the rock of Gibraltar, or drown the entire boat from your selfish, ignorant, irresponsible and reckless decisions.
They are waiting to be right.
The others left are a little scared, with life jackets all on, you notice, a fact that makes you wince, seeing as there is only bright sky and little waves, but they have swimmies, goggles, inner tubes and helicopters on call.
So you will prove them all wrong. You will prove you are the Captain, the first to use an inner guidance and new technology from within. You are living your destiny, you say in the mirror at night, certain the gods will protect you and the ripple effect of your intentions will lead you and your girls to freedom.
You believe with all your might you are called to do so.
And in front of them all, in front of yourself, you run your ship directly into a glacier.
And another one.
You see with terror that the water has began to fill the first cabin of passengers and it is your fault, these passengers you have grown to love as your own family are all affected, their money and resources drained, their thoughts of your motives and choices are murmured below, but you can hear them all.
They are losing trust, amongst the chatter, you feel their worry and anxiety over you, causing great pain and a responsibility greater than you ever knew before.
That is the worst part of being a captain.
Letting down the ones you want nothing more than to love and protect that have no choice but to drown or get hit amongst the rocks with you.
I was in the McDonald’s drive thru, with Lola my cheerleader, Kat my critic, and I saw her eye me in my rear view.
She must have noticed I buy nothing for myself, even food, something she comments on, aware at too young of an age that mommy has had an excruciating break up, must move out without any idea where to live, needs extra work and fast, and is heartbroken mostly over missing them and wondering if in fact, everyone was right, once again.
“Mom,” she said, with authority in her voice, even at 10.
I was scared to look up.
“One day mom, you will have a big house and a man that is your real soul mate, you’ll see. You will go on trips and buy things and mom, you can do it. One day mom.”
“Yeah!” Lola cheered from the back, shouting, “YOU WONT ALWAYS HAVE NO MONEYS!”
She kept eating her fries while I said nothing, afraid to show the tears sliding, the belief they have in me had nothing to do with my past behavior, all to do with what they knew I was capable of.
“And a child shall lead them.”
I had already took on a first captain, one with a snarky spitfire of personality and courage, to test the waves, an open book of brilliance and psychological passion which she has mysteriously gained at such a young age.
Ya’ll know her as Thelma.
I hired her to research and build a new map you see, my courage and passion to my cause quickly passing, so I asked her to find a much better working compass, a growing regret was quickly coming with the realization I threw away with the first one with little indifference at the time.
She has bad news.
She cannot give me a new compass.
She WILL not give you a new compass.
She says it like the truth blazer she is, something I often brag will make her the greatest forensic psychologist of all time, but with me, you see, I demand she change the very core of what makes her beautiful and unique.
I explain carefully that I just want her to say it is okay.
She explains details over my ship with little patience and logical direct blows. She tells me I am the leader of this ship, not her, and not the ones before, and I have a choice. I will lead the ship I call my life, for good or bad, or not.
My knees go weak, not knowing I had unconsciously looked for the exact replacement of what I knew for all my life. I just saw pain, blinding white light, and an evil girl who cut up souls and served them on strawberries.
It took a lot of time to see the real Thelma, not the woman I only projected upon as “mother.”
On many occasions I imagine I might have challenged her to first deck where I would wrestle her lady like uppity ass to the ground, but in fact, something worse happened.
I realized she was right.
What the fuck was I thinking?
I did what all confident self seeking freedom fighters do and cried, begged, demanded she do it, fell faint on the floor from the magnitude of it.
She just rolled her eyes.
Until the breaking.
Something had to be changing for she was evolving into the nurturing and kind friend, the co caption I was used to was not empathetic, even harsh.
It was the first time I saw her as she was, and had always been, but from my own dysfunction and terror of being abandoned had blinded me to ever seeing the real her.
I saw after a year that she had no life jacket on or life boat pulled to the side, nor had she ever.
How could I have missed this?
So this was the breaking, the pounding of my knees to the ground, the layers of unworthy unloved messages and beliefs began to take over, and I had nothing left to fear.
In that moment, I had and was nothing,
The interesting thing about pain is that some pain keeps you stumped for years, and I had the tears of a clown with the make up dripping off, only my true sad self to let through and all of it, all of it, had been not my fault, but my responsibility.
I wasn’t stumped at all. I was aware I had done nothing I had set out to accomplish, that intentions mattered nothing, that I was in fact, the scum on the bottom of the scummiest bottom.
So the reality I had been missing was that she had not changed into anything, for I saw her, my biggest defender, fighter, support and friend. It was I who was the one changing, the parts of me who kept her and the world away were the ego and I had none left, not anymore.
Then I heard some music, coming from bottom deck, Justin Timberlake I believe, blasting on the radio, my girls coming up to shake what their mama gave them, the ship half burned, ship wrecked, void of food.
True deliverance comes not when we are accepting mighty awards in front of all the people who didn’t believe in you, our shadows and ego convinced OUR truth will be rewarded, maybe even a podium or Ted Talk might come our way.
It just is never going to be that way for me.
It is in the destruction, when the tides have turned and all is lost at sea. It is in the shipwreck and pirates who betray again and again, so you find treasure in your laughter, in your glories, in your unforgivable mistakes, and if you have a lucky break, all you can see and feel is just peace.
These are the finest of any treasure a captain can find, when her ship becomes eerily still while the dolphins came to say hello, jumping in perfect circles. One by one they come, dressed in costume, Kat and then Lola, Thelma and Dad, all the ones who love from a broken heart come to dance.
“You are the captain of your ship, the captain of your soul” is a quote I scribbled down way before I took on this journey, and I will not begin being grateful when I find the destination, the flag, the written map the gods reveal before me.
Sink or swim, with maybe one float left to hold on as I watch my boat burst into flames, it doesn’t matter.
I will dance just the same.
For everyone on board, from past to present to unknown to future known, this is the song I am dancing to, hoping you all are blessed, touched, and loved. It is you who have been God’s touch on my shoulder.
- Sara Cox: What my mother taught me (thesun.co.uk)
- Shaming Children Is Emotionally Abusive (psychologytoday.com)