So, I remember the first time (I hope it only happened once) that I told my mother that I hated her. Oh, stop it, I know. I’m like cringing right now. She was on the treadmill in our Miami home and we were arguing about something. You’d think it was important enough that I would remember, but I don’t. I was blind with rage and I scooped up all the anger inside of my little Keds-wearing-tomboy body and yelled it from the hallway. My Keds squeaked as I stopped and stared at her reaction. She stood there in awe. The woman practically fell off the belt as she stared back at me in shock. And there I stood, the little miracle that she had once cradled in her arms as her most prized possession. I don’t know what she probably saw in me that day as I stood there. For all I know, she saw a ball of fire framing my body. Who is this monster? That was the first time I made a grown woman cry. It was not my proudest moment as I watched her tear up. My heart sank, but I didn’t show it. I just walked away.
Being the little monster that I was, I went into my wallpapered cave and threw myself on the bed. What had I done? I made my mother cry. Man, I’m so screwed. Going.Straight.To.Hell. You know that childhood panic I’m talking about. You sweat cold because this time, it’s settled—you’re a sh*thead and a goblin is going to come looking for you tonight.
Despite feeling badly about what I had done, I sat in my room for a few hours. The sheer embarrassment of what I had said kept me in there. The urge to stay safe in my quarters was as solid as the bed I was laying on. Oh, and I felt happy in my little cave, too. I didn’t want to go outside and face the world. What if my dad was home? What if he knew? What if she cries again?
To rationalize it all, a part of me got angry. How could she cry? I was just angry, why is she taking me so seriously!? But, let’s face it, whatever my reasoning, I knew she had a right to feel and react to the content that I had thrown in her direction. We always have reasons to react, but it doesn’t justify the pain we cause. We just can’t go through life being little monster trucks that run people over, always rationalizing the damage done to others and never stopping to face it. The damage we do is part of us, but it’s not facing it that leaves us at a loss.
Why does the wrong place to feel so safe sometimes? I don’t know. I never got this. I have watched people around me to do it, too. There is an obvious problem and they decide hide in a safe place; where people don’t discuss things and the issues just feed off the stalling. Why do people do this? Why did I do this?
I was scared that what I had done meant something terrible about me. I was terrified to face that I was capable of making someone else hurt, but eventually the guilt won me over and it was more important for me to apologize. I don’t have a high tolerance for moral discomfort. With struggles, I can assure you that I can drink you under the table, but when I’ve done something wrong, it just paralyses me. It’s not because I am a good person; I think it just has more to do with being in tune with where I stand and once you know, you know.
I remember being bored out of my mind as I lay on the bed. I remember wondering how bad it would be if I dared to come out and face it. I’d start to pace towards the door until I would think I heard my dad’s voice in the hallway and I’d parachute my body on the bed. Had he come in, I would have probably been stupid enough to pretend that I meant what I said, because that’s what we do when we’re ashamed, we pretend. We consider standing by the decisions that we have taken because we figure it’s better to stay strong then be vulnerable. It’s because we are focused on avoiding pain, not on making it better. My parents were smarter than that though; they waited until the guilt ate me up. Maybe that’s where my curls came from; all that childhood guilt.
We make mistakes and the only way we learn from them is by walking out of that safe room that we’ve been hiding in. It doesn’t matter whose voice you hear on the other side of the door, it doesn’t matter what terrible critique you think that will be said to you, and it certainly doesn’t matter what you think your actions say about you. You just need to face it. If you want to grow up, you gotta leave the room. Once you leave the room, come clean. All the answers and implications that you’ve been dreading follow on their own. You have no say in what happens after, you just finally start participating in the only decision that matters.
One thing that might have saved me was having a little brother. I remember when he was the designated monster and I would walk in and ask, “why are you in here?” I can’t say that I didn’t recognize the face of panic on the poor kid’s face, but I had to play it cool. Who knows what he had done, but standing on the other side of the door often made me realize how stupid he was (we are) for staying in there. “Just go say sorry and it’s over,” I would say as he would twitch and stare.
The kid was freaked, but eventually he would come out to face it. As we grew up, we both took it upon ourselves to remind each other how pointless the “hibernation of shame” acts were, especially when they got in the way of neighborhood baseball. Kids are just smarter because they know that walking out is inevitable. When nothing else worked, one of us would always say that stomach-turning line that always got you to go pale- “You’re gonna have to go to the bathroom eventually, you idiot.”
You’d totally be mind-f*cked after that because you’d start thinking… OMG, do I have to go now?
Unfortunately, as adults, no one can stand outside of our rooms to assure that we eventually come to face the things we’ve done. No one can do this. As we grow up, it gets harder, it has to be our choice to face life, to change things, to apologize, or to be at peace with ourselves and the people around us. As adults, we have the luxury of creating the illusion that we don’t have to face it, but that’s a lie. I guarantee you are going face it all, it’s just going be a matter of when and where. I hope you do it on your own. I hope you realize that there is nothing to be afraid of once you start. I hope that after that you learn to come out of the room more often. And if you’re too scared, dude, you have to remember it’s inevitable. Any kid will tell you:
“You’re gonna have to go to the bathroom eventually, you idiot.”
To walking out, Tone