Alone in a Crowd

May 01, 2008

Some aberrations are hidden in the heart. Are these any less important, damaging, or sharp as those in plain view? Their unique set of coping mechanisms run insidiously deep, and sometimes get tangled in surprisingly diverse aspects of our lives. There are a million different scenarios that generate this brand of aberration, many more severe than mine, others less. But is it so wrong to stand in a crowd and feel alone, pierced by my own affliction, wanting to be rid of it? The dichotomy of knowing we all have aberrations, that we live in this aberration nation, and owning one can pose a humdinger sized internal conflict.

Sometimes we laugh to keep from crying. We forge on, knowing that we have so much to be grateful for, and to look forward to. But that dark spot hangs in the heart, tangling, groping for a place of comfort. And so we still long for a caring smile, for understanding and acknowledgement that what we bear is sacred. It played a huge role in making us who we are. Like the edges of a puzzle, it somehow holds us together although we long to break away. If others can embrace it kindly, our plight to do so becomes a bit easier.

I’m a huge supporter of laughter. In fact, I could be a poster child for the incredible healing attributes of laughing at oneself; however, laughing too hard for too long can wear you down. I suspect that those who laugh, like me, sometimes wish they didn’t have to. Sometimes we laugh because everyone else is laughing. It’s the best way to keep decorum and normalcy alive. On the flip side, society seems to go overboard at times with our new mantra of political correctness; we can’t expect everyone to tiptoe around us and our personal demons. So where does this leave us and our heart gripping aberrations that just won’t go away? To laugh or not to laugh, that is the question.

In the long, winding road to now, I’ve come to accept that my mother suffers from a brand of mental illness, that her aberration grew into mine. My pain now mostly stems from the lack of understanding in others, and my heritage as a parentified child. Although my mother is currently on multiple medications, and doing well, she remains different. Her view of the world is not average. It’s one that is fascinating but at times tough to swallow. If she were in a wheelchair, the inconvenience imposed on others would be forgiven. But instead, she travels in an unseen chair, one that I have pushed and pulled and tugged, washed, and desperately tried to hide. Am I the only one who can see it? In 1971, didn’t anyone see the child pushing the wheelchair at 1109 Crestmoor Street in Shreveport, Louisiana?

In her book, My Parent’s Keeper: Adult Children of the Emotionally Disturbed, Eva Marian Brown writes that the task of repairing a parent’s psyche is impossible for the child whose main goal in life is to make mommy happy. We were all fated to fail in that task. Our childhoods were stolen by that overwhelming, impossible goal. We were adults at five, six, or seven. Now, as true adults, we are sometimes wise beyond our years, and yet we are too young, never having had the opportunity to mature at a steady pace. We are 200-year-old souls in middle aged bodies. We are giggling children commuting to work. This unusual, divergent mix provides tremendous treasures if we look for them.

The amazing truth is that my mother gave me an unending gift, the insatiable desire to move forward, to create something out of the thick and hollow, but cracked and overflowing, shell her illness gave me. When my oldest daughter was born in 1988, I began to understand more clearly how my own mother loved me. Her love is unconventional and unwavering. It is a love easily misunderstood, lost among the crazy decisions, angry outbursts, and paranoid moments. But through my journey, I’ve learned to forgive the invisible chair that has strapped her down. I just wish the world could, for one moment, see her through the rose-colored glasses I have learned to wear. I wish they could see her tender heart, and good intentions. The love she has for so many surrounds her in a pink, purple haze that clouds her perception, and fools theirs.

If the world can embrace the contributions of Vincent van Gogh, Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Newton, Winston Churchill, Jackson Pollock, Sylvia Plath, and more recently, Adam Duritz, surely it can find value in the aberrations my mother and I have shared. Surely it can forgive us our unconventional love and rose-colored glasses. Surely you can take what I have to offer. After all, it’s a gift.

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