The world is filled with so much anger and meanness.
I’ve known this since I was a toddler.
I grew up in a, let’s say, “Chaotic” home. My father worked while my mother stayed home and took care of me and the house. Sounds normal enough, except my mother suffered from severe depression and chronic illness. She spent a lot of time either angry, crying or escaping in to another world by form of romance novel. I did not have a normal childhood; at this point in time, sure it’s difficult to define what is actually normal, however I can assure you I could fill a best seller with what went on during the course of my upbringing. The biggest things were that I was lonely, insecure and afraid of everything. I wasn’t allowed to join groups or socialize with other kids my age which, as I got older made me more awkward and introverted. I was not a social child I read books and wrote stories, I did however watch and listen- and I remember everything.
My parents fought constantly, often violently. There was the rare moment of family togetherness and happiness but it was always fleeting. Someone would get mad at someone eventually and hell would break loose. I lived smack dab in between my paternal grandmother and my aunt and uncle. In my case this aunt and uncle, who were also my Godparents, were my father and mother’s brother and sister. My uncle being my Dad’s brother, my aunt being my mother’s sister. There was never a shortage a fodder for fight in my family which at the time bonded over alcohol and drugs and general partying. It was nothing for my Dad and his brother not to speak for weeks on end or my mom and her sister to fight over something ridiculous ending in a foul mouthed open argument from the comfort of their own stoops. The only problem with the parents’ fighting was that the only kids I was allowed to play with were my 2 cousins so if the parents were fighting, I was alone. There was always yelling and screaming and cursing growing up; everything always seemed so chaotic. Even a trip to my grandparents’ house which should be fun was exhausting.
My maternal grandmother was a hard woman when we were young. She always had her hair in pin curlers with a bandanna tied up over it and a long king sized Rothman’s cigarette hanging out of her mouth. She cursed like a sailor, was constantly working (sometimes I think she made extra work for herself just so that she could complain about it later.) I remember accidentally getting in her way in the kitchen once with my cousin as we played her response? “Get the fuck outta my way you little bastards!” *Sigh a day at Grandma’s… She was cranky, fought constantly with my grandfather, accusing him of this or that. She had even treated her own daughters awfully with verbal, physical and emotional abuse when they were growing up. I later learned that she was also abused growing up by her mother who actually turned out to be her grandmother. My grandmother was a product of Great Grandmother’s Kuhn’s greed and disdain for her own daughters. Her daughters were sometimes offered up to the gentleman visitors to the house. My maternal grandmother grew up thinking her sister was her sister when in fact, she was her mother. Crazy eh? My grandfather was much different, in our family we all kind of felt bad for him having to deal with our crazy grandmother. She made it known to all of us little kids that our grandfather was a “rotten cheatin’ bastard” but we all had our own opinion. He was a man stuck with a woman and 8 children, who probably couldn’t leave her in good conscience. He was always kind to us; I remember his hearty goofy laugh and how much he loved playing music and being on his boat. We never blamed him if he cheated, it was only ever the one woman that I remember hearing about so, God Bless her if she gave that poor man some happiness.
Both my parents came from homes where fighting and violence was prominent, they both left school at age 13 (coincidentally, despite their six year age difference) so it’s not surprising it carried forth.
What else do I remember? Being bullied relentlessly. Almost all my cousins bullied me at some point. I have vivid memories of being held down by one cousin while another whipped me across my bare back with a broken clothesline. I don’t even know or remember what I could have possibly said or done. I was such a nervous, anxious child (already with a full blown anxiety disorder) I always tried to avoid or break up fights. I was sick of them. I was sick of people being mean to each other by the time I was 8 years old.
The bullying didn’t stop there, I had a lengthy school career after that. I was always either too weak, too skinny, too chubby, too quiet, too loud, too pretty or too sad for people to like me. I never really fit in anywhere. Even at 41 years old today, I still don’t feel like I really fit in anywhere.
Now that I myself suffer from chronic illness and pain, it’s left me pretty isolated and cut off from my family and people I once called friends. It doesn’t matter how old you get, being hurt by others doesn’t hurt any less. In the past year I went from being married with 2 dogs I adored living in my dream home with lots of friends to living in a shit hole apartment, in danger of being evicted after my girlfriend up and moved back to the United States, because I haven’t been able to work because of illness in 4 years, I went through my divorce settlement money fast as I was supporting basically 2 of us. So now I was alone and broke, my friends who initially said they’d help me out when I needed it were never around to actually do so. My family was of no help, my dad’s words when I called him crying about my divorce? “Get over it and move on.” There were no hugs of support. No phone calls asking me if I needed anything, no support of any kind. To this day, my family doesn’t even believe I’m actually sick!
People are so cold and uncaring. The fact of the matter is, is that I suffer daily in pain; I have difficulty with mobility, cognition and speech. I can’t get around, don’t own a car but do you think anyone would ever offer me a ride anywhere? Nope. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember. My parents once made me suffer through a 2 day asthma attack, I had to sleep sitting up, because my father couldn’t be bothered to take me 10 minutes down to the Emergency center. When he finally did take me, they took me in right away, asked him why he waited so long and told him I had asthma. Upon hearing this news, my stepmother responded, “No she doesn’t” everything was always “a ploy for attention” from my step mother; even when I tried to kill myself as a teenager, she came storming through the front door yelling at me that it was a “sick ploy for attention”.
Even though I grew up alongside my brother, he was treated differently. He had his mother and grandmother on his side. I had a mother whose idea was basically; “out of sight, out of mind” (is to this day in fact) and my selfish father who cared more about himself than me. My brother wasn’t forced to get a job at 15. He didn’t have to pay for his own medications at that age. He wasn’t forced to do any chores in fact; right up until he moved out at like 26, my step mother still made his bed, cooked his food and did his laundry. He has no idea what it was like for me to watch my brother have all of his needs taken care of while mine were just ignored. Although I don’t hold him responsible or begrudge him as he was just a kid, it would help if he was a little more understanding. Recently he told me to “grow up”. Thanks bro, for having my back, you couldn’t even take an hour out of your precious time to take me out for a coffee when my marriage fell apart.
I’ve always been on my own it seems and have always been surrounded by selfish, rude, mean or out and out cruel people. What the hell is wrong with people?? If you see someone hurting, you don’t kick them when they’re down. These are basic human instincts that seem to be lost on the masses now.
Most recently I had a falling out with another cousin who lived with me briefly. Because I was already struggling to get by and my girlfriend who had become my best friend, got a job in New Brunswick I had a day basically to decide whether or not I would go with her. Given the fact that I have had no support from family and have lost most of my friends (that’s what happens when you have an invisible illness) and because my cousin was never home and I just assumed she would understand that I needed to go. I needed to get away from all the anger, the bullying by people I once called friends, a family who really couldn’t be bothered with me; I just needed a fresh start. Needless to say, she was less than understanding. She even got her “in and out of jail” friend to threaten me and because they wouldn’t return the keys I literally slept the last couple of nights in that apartment with my door barricaded and a crowbar by my bed. This is what I have left behind. My hope is that now that I have written about it, I can process it and move on easier.
It feels like my whole life I have been surrounded by anger, rage, selfishness, and bullying. I’m 41 now and it stops here and now even if it meant I had to leave half of my belongings behind and move one province over, the hurt ends now.
As I sit looking out our (roughly) 140 year old window in uptown Saint John, I see a new life for myself; a life where I can be quirky and creative, a life where my partner understands my illness, away from my constantly critical family, and away from the negativity I now associate with Halifax. We moved in to a tiny one bedroom in one of the oldest parts of the city. It’s rich with heritage, history and culture and should provide me with lots of inspiration for writing and art.
It always surprises me and pleases me to see families who actually act like family. My girlfriend’s parents are amazing people. They helped us lug and drive all our stuff here even though her father is quite ill. The things they have done for their children and their kindness towards me makes me feel grateful to have met them. It also gives me hope that there are truly kind people out there in the world.
Live Humbly, Be Charitable, Live Graciously,
All Images are my own