My name is C~ and I am a survivor. I don’t mean a suicide survivor, or a depression survivor. I’m talking here about the really big one. I (drum roll) survived a family wedding. DBT talks about looking for the positives in even very difficult situations. By the time I collapsed through my friend K~’s door at 9.00pm that night clutching chocolate, the only positive thing I could find to say was that I wasn’t going to ever have to live through that day again.
It’s really hard to pin down why it was so utterly hideous (aside from nearly crashing my Dad’s car and deciding to attend an outdoor wedding where the main course was pie and mash with gravy in a raw silk cream suit).
The line that keeps occurring to me is from Pride and Prejudice . Lady Catherine de Bourgh says to Elizabeth “you give your opinion very decidedly for so young a person. Pray, what is your age?”
Well, my age is 41 (or one and forty in Jane Austen speak) and I have learned not to give my opinion decidedly. Not in front of my family, anyway. A piece of self-preservation learned from an early age. If you wish to avoid being told you are silly, naive or just wrong…….If you wish to avoid trips to doctors, psychiatrists and faith healers….. Then learn to keep your mouth shut. Or, at least, open in the right way. It’s quite a good game actually, figuring out exactly what people want to hear and then saying it. Or, at the very least, if you absolutely cannot agree with what they are saying, because you feel you might actually burst into flames, then find a nice, gentle way to divert the conversation. Because heaven forbid you should stray from beige. Everyone else can, of course. But then they are all busy agreeing with one another.
My Auntie C~ made a joke about me being the milkman’s baby. My Mum looked upset. I’m guessing because she kind of has a point. I don’t fit. Never have. Incidentally, I don’t think Mum was actually shagging the milkman, although I cannot deny that is another logical explanation for her looking upset.
And do you know what is deeply scary? It’s never occurred to me to mind. I toe the line. I play the game…. and I play it well. I keep to the peace. I make them like me. And so I can live with this, I don’t compromise who I am on the inside. I hold to my beliefs. But on the outside……………I lie. I live a lie. Every minute I am with them is a lie. It’s exhausting. Constantly being alert in case I accidentally show what I really think or feel. In case my iron clad grip on my bitten tongue should slip.
And now it feels too late. Too late to change. My parents are elderly. Less mentally agile. The hurt it would cause to try and make them accept me for who I actually am is too great. When I was 17 years old I had a counsellor who encouraged me to confront my parents more and I tried…. A little. But now I get what she was trying to do and she was right. I wish I had done it then……. but instead I opted for a double-life.
Which brings me back to a couple of hours spent with my uni friends. The palpable relief to just sit in that room with them and know that I could just be me. Without censoring, lying, filtering. It’s a bit like wearing a slightly uncomfortable piece of clothing all day. Maybe jeans that are a bit too tight. You get used to it. You get so as you don’t really notice. Until you take them off. Then….oh….the relief. So, thank you K, A, E & K for being the friend equivalent of going home and putting my pyjamas on.