only recover

I was driving home and listening to a pop song about abuse and the cycle of abuse. She says: “You never thought about anyone else, you just saw your pain, and now I cry in the middle of the night for the same damn thing.” She says: “My heart can’t possibly break when it wasn’t even whole to start with.”

I visited my close friend yesterday, the one whose aunt is struggling with addiction, and he said how her kids said they didn’t feel seen, didn’t feel like their mom wanted to be there for them unless it was to fight to get them back. When she has them, she locks herself in her room. She forgets to feed them. I read a quote from Tara Brach that said what children need most is to be seen and to be loved, and to the extent that that’s not there, there’s severed belonging. That’s what that song is talking about when it says my heart wasn’t whole to start with. It’s about not being seen or loved. About being forgotten. About locked doors.

On the drive to visit that close friend, I talked to my other friend about my dad. He said it must be hard to hold how my dad treated me along with how he was treated by everyone else when he was young. I said it was. It’s complicated. It brings up self-doubt. How can you live with compassion and trauma? How can you set boundaries with an abusive parent when you’re thinking how they only ever saw their own pain? That in coping with what was denied to them, they denied it to you? You can only resolve to not make the same mistakes. You can only heal, only recover.

Today is the anniversary of Mike’s suicide. I think about him often. A year ago I got a text from my boyfriend that Mike, his roommate, was missing. I got a call that he was dead. I drove his girlfriend across the bay bridge, the golden gate shimmering to the left of us, the most beautiful I had ever seen it, only that morning witness to Mike’s leaving this world.  I took her to his mom’s house. I stood in the doorway. Today we are honoring him and I’m remembering what it means to be alive. I couldn’t sleep last night because my boyfriend was out with someone who I don’t like him hanging out with and that’s his choice, but I was hurt that he didn’t talk to me about it openly. He left out the details. He rejected my call. This morning he talked to me openly. He apologized. I felt so grateful. I thought about how short life is. I thought about my dad projecting everything he hated about himself onto me. About him hating me, too. I thought about how I’m not making the same mistakes. How I’m healing and recovering. I thought of Mike, feeling like he didn’t belong. I thought about the drive across the bay bridge. I feel so grateful that we have the chance to live.

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