Family visits are stressful beyond comprehension. I always walk into the situation assuming everything is going to be super, but as the days roll on and I am increasingly cut off from the outside world, I start to lose faith in my intuition.
I seriously love my family, but when I scrutinize my parents’ and siblings’ scrutiny of me, I can almost hear their minds questioning, “What happened to the golden child?” As I meticulously scan the memories I’ve retained between six days after my first birthday to the present, a fog develops….it thickens as I note the misjudged forks in the road, opportunities I morally objected to, spontaneous acts of rebellion which continue to haunt me nearly a decade later, and, eventually, the incurable illness and medications that now reign my existence. Looking in the mirror, I no longer give credence to the description of anyone as a golden child.
My parents never worried about my academic future. I graduated from a top private school with a 4.357 GPA and chose one of the top performing arts colleges in the world. But all the grades, academic and extra curricular accolades, and attempts at being my own person without becoming an outcast did me no favors. I slipped further and further into a cyclone of self-hatred, social isolation, and a black hole of negative self-image when I was passed over time and again for so many things throughout my education and my earlier careers–despite seniority or talent. Because (Hello!?!?) I was the golden child. No need for worry…I would certainly sort it out.
But…the golden child occasionally fumbles. So used to my perfection, my family assumed the people I allowed in my life were good people…I mean, they had to be: perfection seeks out perfection…yet the desire for perfection and my internal struggles with identity have been my biggest hurdles…you see:
- Being aloof makes me a “b*tch”
- Talking too much makes me a “know-it-all” or “nonsensical”
- Losing strength and falling without the ability to stand up in Rite Aid automatically means I am drunk…as does “chemo fog” when I cannot remember where I am or what I am doing–both are medically related to my progressive Rheumatoid Arthritis.
I found my prince….twice, but neither deserved me: the first was the friend I desperately needed until he disappeared and the other had the misconception perfection exists.
For 2 1/2 weeks, I stayed with my mother and our dogs and cat in her house because, despite the anxiety it creates, there is nothing I could ever do or say that my mother would find so appalling she would not continue to love me. She cries with me when my body hates me (and I hate it) and searches for disability-friendly jobs. She researches and supports holistic and western medical solutions. She has been, and always will be, my unwavering source of strength.
I have moved past certain close family members never reaching out (even when they visit New York without telling me)…I guess I didn’t make the cut once my golden luster faded. I have moved past the friends who stopped speaking to me when they moved, when I went on chemotherapy drugs, and when they first saw me with a cane. I have lost way more than their company and could not care less.
When almost every single thing I value in my life disappears, I run “home” to see the family that loves me in a city I have never lived in…because I need to spread out, to juice, to hug and love on my pets and niece and nephew, and (at 30 years old), occasionally crawl in bed with my mom to hear her hum in her sleep.