I debated for a long time about whether or not I should create this post. Then when I decided I’d write it, I kept asking myself, “how far will you go?” I soon arrived to the conclusion that the answer was simple: as far as I need to.
When I first began blogging in 2013, I was terrified. I’d announced to everyone I knew that I’d be starting a blog. I had also learned years prior that the internet can be a merciless place. I knew I wanted to write about my life and my experiences. But what would people think about what I write? What will people say if I write about them? What will I say if something I write hurts someone’s feelings or makes them feel angry or offended? One day, I stumbled on a quote that changed the way I thought about blogging and writing forever.
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird wrote that.
“…They should have behaved better.”
Those words locked onto my heart and soul, and they wouldn’t let go. Those words allowed me to write bravely and share my stories for 5 years. Those words are allowing me to write bravely and share my stories now. And boy, oh boy, do I have stories to tell.
I remember growing up, I’d often think of my siblings and try and figure out which one of us was the black sheep of the family. I’d heard every family had one. I grew up with 2 sisters and a brother, and we were all so different. Back then, I thought being the black sheep meant you were the one who got in trouble the most. I thought the obvious choice was my 2nd oldest sister. She began getting in trouble a lot shortly after becoming a teen, and the trouble seemed to never stop. I used to watch my mother yell and call her a b*tch and literally beat her – slapping her in the face, dragging her to rooms, and sitting on her and pummeling her with fists to the face. After each beating, my sister would get up and say something in defiance to my mother. Back then, I worried for my sister. I saw that act as an expression of further disobedience. Sometimes, my mother did, too. Looking back with my adult eyes, I know now it wasn’t disobedience. It was my sister’s way of standing up to a bully, and in her 14-year-old mind saying, “Yes, you beat me down. But I am still standing. I am still me.”
Watching my sister being abused by my mother, and seeing the rage that soon consumed my sister, I used to be thankful that I wasn’t the black sheep. I was glad that I wasn’t the one that was always doing things so terrible to make my mom that angry. I was happy that I wasn’t the one always getting in trouble. I received whippings for sure. All of which went far past the line drawn between abuse and discipline. I was never punished with fists. I never earned that kind of abuse. I earned others. My 11-year-old mind knew what a good mother looked like, and my 11-year-old mind knew that my mother was not it. But I was kept clothed, and fed and when not angering my mother, I was for the most-part ignored. So I didn’t realize just how ‘not good’ my mother had been until early adulthood. Up until then, I didn’t even know I was being abused.
For as long as I could remember, I’d always had dreams of living somewhere other than home. When I turned 19, I received an opportunity to do exactly that, and I took it. Then I began doing things I’d never done before. I began talking to people.
People and lifestyles other than mine fascinated me. I became obsessed with finding out how others experienced childhood. By 19, I’d become a mother myself, and I was determined to make my son’s childhood experience drastically different from mine. I had no examples of motherhood to look to. My mother had isolated (intentionally or unintentionally) my siblings and I from the rest of my family. We visited them at reunions and on holidays or when my mother needed a break, but there was no other central parental figure in my life I could use as a role model besides my mother, and I knew her example of motherhood was not a model I wanted to follow. So I talked to people. I watched movies. I read books. I took classes. I traveled. I studied. I clung to every good action that had positive consequences, and made them my own. Then something else began to happen. I realized that I was not normal.
My childhood was not normal. The things I was taught were not normal. The way I was living my life, the way I thought, my lifestyle, the things I wanted, the things I were willing to settle for – none of it was normal. I was not normal. My siblings were not normal. My mother was not normal. And I met other people like me. Other people like us – people who had been brought up in a certain situation or circumstance, of which situations and circumstances were not good, but which situations and circumstances were all they knew, and because it was all they knew, it was their normal… until one day, they realized it wasn’t.
It was at that moment in my life, I became aware that I would have to make a choice. The same choice others like me had to make. The same choice my siblings and my mother would have to make, too. A choice that could isolate you. A choice that could make you different. A choice that could get you in trouble. This transcended just being the black sheep in the family. Those of us who had to make that choice were like piles of black sheep huddled together, peering over the highest point of self-realization into a bright world filled with light. We were like black mountains.