(Written on March 19, 2021)
I miss me.
I feel so far removed that I hardly recognize myself.
Who am I even coming back to?
I wonder if I live in other people’s worlds not only to make them feel seen and safe, but also because my world crumbles so easily.
How do I make my own world safe?
What are the building blocks? What do they feel like?
What do I want my world to look like? What do I want my world to feel like?
(Written June 11-12, 2021)
English is my second language. I hardly think about it – only when I pronounce vowels in Spanish. I remember one time in kindergarten or the first grade, not knowing English well, I didn’t know how to say that I needed to use the restroom. I was quiet and nervous, and I peed my pants. They pulled my older brother Alex out of class so he could escort me to the bathroom, but by then it was too late. I remember being in the bathroom stall crying while he waited outside.
That’s the first moment I can recall where I couldn’t find the words, as desperately as I wanted to; or more so, when I hid my voice in fear.
As soon as I learned English, I was writing. I mostly wrote poetry. I remember having a cloud-patterned poster board hung on my wall, scribbled all over with poems I’d written – even on the cut-out sun I taped on the top right corner of the poster, made out of yellow construction paper.
At knee-high, I was writing poems of unrequited love. I had a crush on a boy that liked a friend of mine, and I felt every phase up to its fading. I remember one day walking into my bedroom and seeing my mom standing in front of the poster board, reading each one by one in a whisper. She asked who hurt me, and before I could answer, she asked me how at such an age I can feel as much as I feel. I didn’t share much of my writing after that.
My mom has endured her share of pain – the type of pain that changes you, that chips away at your core, that when brought to mind, it peels away at the scab. (How do you heal when you’re so near the source of your hurt?) She had the words, but a home for those words weren’t as easy to come by for her, at least not a shelter that felt safe enough. But she had me, her daughter who, at around 12, became her friend.
I let go of myself in order to hold her together. I sacrificed my sense of self, without knowing so, to reflect her back to herself – or maybe I was reflecting hope – to make her feel safe. I became an extension of her. I used to hold such resentment towards her when discovering the rippling effect it’s had. But one thing I’ve learned, and I remind myself of every day, is that our parents are human – flawed humans, as we are – and I try to focus on the beauty to such truth, even if harsh itself. I focus on the potential that such truth has to connect us versus tear us apart, all while practicing forgiveness.
I’ve learned how to make a home out of hurt, to clean a corner for myself in a dangerous environment, if in the corner across from me was someone I love.
Many times, I’ve made myself smaller to create a safe space, and enough space for those I love even if they didn’t love me back. I’ve kept words unsaid, words that would spell out my wants and needs. I’ve done this so many times with men in fear that I was too much. Too loving, too emotional, too caring, too vulnerable…I hid my voice. I hid my voice so deep that I’ve gradually detached myself from it.
In the past two years, I abandoned myself – by staying with someone who would say they didn’t want to be in a relationship but showed otherwise, who would deny us of my feelings when convenient to him. When I pulled away, he’d pull me in. When I would pull him in, he’d push away. Someone that offered me only enough space for the wants of mine that worked in favor of his. My close friend reminded me that I “wrote a whole book about something similar to this, of old flames that burned themselves out due to their own selfish measures.”
I’ve shielded other’s decisions and carried other’s burdens. Who’s looking out for me though, if not even myself?
I wonder… how long have I let go of myself to hold on to someone else? What’s left of me after years of making myself small? How long have I been uncomfortable so someone else can be comfortable? How deep have I buried my wants and my needs to water someone else’s?
Walking away, even if it feels I’m being kept together with tape and glue, allows me the space to strengthen my voice for myself. I must see myself, before anyone else can.
Many of us are in transition, especially after experiencing such isolation last year. We’ve come out the other side as newer, different versions of ourselves. Who are you in this moment of growth and progress? What parts of you have you shed? What parts of you have you strengthened or are hoping to? Who did you come back to yourself as? Who do you want to be? What part of you do you appreciate more?
Sometimes, quiet is what guides you back to yourself.