Lines in Concrete
I do hesitate to post this…but I feel I need to.
My grandmother and I have had a very rocky relationship, full of abuse of several sorts. She mostly raised me, due to extenuating circumstances, but I moved out when I was 18. Since then, we’ve gone back and forth on a lot of things. Most notably, her attempts to use guilt and fear to manipulate me. Both my mother and I have nightmares about being trapped again.
I got an email tonight that was more of a kick in the teeth than most. Given that it started off with calling me ‘incompetent’ to care for the family property and went downhill from there…yes. It also ended with a specific slur against lesbians, among other sore points.
I was in tears as I started typing this reply. Now, on serious sleep deprivation and an impending Hell Day, I feel cleansed. I’ve needed to say this for a long time.
This is, finally, my facing up to one of my biggest demons, and defining myself and my beliefs. This is my ‘it gets better’ message.
Ahh, perfect timing to get such a loving email…
I’ve been locked out of this account for several weeks. Around that, I’m basically attempting to work 3 jobs, as well as get ready to move and all the other wonderful things. So I apologize for not having emailed recently. I’m forgoing sleep to reply to this, and I have to leave for work in 3 hours…and I won’t be home for about 24 hours after that.
My friends are so understanding that I sometimes forget family isn’t always the same way.
As for the things I was mentioning, don’t even worry about it. I understand that I’m not capable of living up to the standards you have, whether in work of behavior. I guess I accepted that a long time ago. But the problem is, I’m in the mood to clear up some misconceptions and draw some boundaries in this relationship.
See, the thing is, I have dreams, and goals, and aspirations, and hopes. I’m not after a husband and kids, if I’d wanted those, I could have followed in the footsteps of my other family members and married Greg. Sure, I’d probably have been miserable, but at least I’d have been ‘right’, I suppose. The stuff I want? It’s messy. It’s heartbreaking. It’s amazing. And yep, it breaks pretty much every rule I grew up with.
I’m not Adventist. I’m not Christian. That is MY choice. Mine and nobody else’s. It isn’t retaliation, it isn’t someone else leading me into it, and the next person who suggests that someone else ‘influenced’ me is quite possibly going to spend the next five hours being talked to death. I have tattoos, my ears are pierced, I drink occasionally, I watch bad movies, I swear more than I should, I work 7 days a week and I’m friends with people any real Adventist would turn their noses up at.
I am not going to apologize if this offends you. I am not going to apologize or beg for forgiveness if you disown me, if you’re angry with me, if you feel like you’ve failed me. This is me drawing my lines around my happiness. Funny thing is, it seems like the people who feel like they’ve ‘failed’ me are the people who want to change me. The ones accused of changing me are just happy if I’m happy. (Yes, Greg feels like he failed me. Funny how that works.)
I don’t *HAVE* a religion. I have a faith. It’s my faith, and my path, and it’s nobody else’s damn business how I choose to live my life. Not my friends, and not my family’s.
You’re right. I have lesbian and gay friends. I have friends who have sexualities that don’t exactly have titles. Married, unmarried, who cares? Why on earth is it ANYONE’S business what they do? By God, I wish more people in the world were like them. Funny, sweet, protective, intelligent, creative, wonderful. Friends who found out that a guy creeped me out and rallied around me like a damn shield wall. Friends who will stay up all night to talk me out of doing something stupid. Friends who have, after a few weeks of knowing them, taught me what family was actually all about.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned recently? You aren’t born into family. You are born with relatives. Family is what you make around yourself. People who don’t care how ‘good’ you are. People who love and support and slap sense into you no matter what. The gay, transsexual, pagan, etc etc etc folks? They are my family. They are the people who have never judged me or weighed my abilities or worth like I was a horse at market. For you to forbid those people access to your home is the same as forbidding me access to your home. And if you think I’m joking, I will remind you that the reason I no longer speak to Jo, Chuck or Bob’s side of the family is because I was subjected to racist, homophobic tirades at the reunion at Chuck’s place.
So here’s the thing. I’m moving back to California for a reason. That reason has nothing to do with you. It only has tangentially to do with this retreat thing. I have people who have asked me to do things for them, and my commitment is to them. I’ve already made other plans because I saw this sort of reaction coming. I get it. You’re set in your ways. I accepted that a long time ago, and I made the effort to make sure that my plans wouldn’t affect you.
The things I’m planning to do would save the property, did you realize that? It would be a non-profit. It would have a purpose. But I understood that our viewpoints are simply too different, and so I will be setting up in San Francisco. I will be using my money to buy and develop something else. Something that doesn’t come with judgment and conditions, but allows people to be who and what they are. A place I don’t have to worry if one of my family members will be attacked, or made to feel inferior or shamed.
I will be living in California as my own person. I will not be accepting help from you and Papa because, as you said, you don’t have the means, nor am I willing be bought and sold. I no longer allow anyone else to have power over me in any way.
As soon as I am able, I will relieve you of the horses, as well. I do apologize for having left them with you for so long, I know it was a burden. When I am able, I will work on the property as I can. I had intended to become a caretaker for both you and the property. I shall not attempt to do that now until you no longer are able to care for it in any way.
You will be welcome to visit me any time you wish, so long as there is a bit of notice and you abide by the laws of my own house. The first law of my house is that everyone who enters is of the same standing, the same protection, the same freedoms. Once you come into my house, you will not judge my lifestyle, my beliefs, or my friends in any way. Feel however you wish about them, but I will not hear it. The second law is more of a hope: an open mind. But I can’t enforce that, and if I tried…I’d be no better than the people I fight against.
I understand that the things in this will hurt you, and upset you. But I cannot continue this sort of relationship with you. I can’t afford to read an email and wonder what anvil is going to be dropped on my head this time. I refuse to continue to respond to the ‘you’re against me, you don’t love me, why don’t you ever email me’ manipulations that you have been leveling against me since I was old enough to talk. *That* is why I don’t email you. I don’t have the head space to try and figure out all the ways my words could be taken wrong.
So here’s the deal: I’m me. Get over it. Reject me or accept me as a package. To be honest, I’d rather that you reject me for now, because I’m not telling you everything and I would rather you take time to come to terms with this message than to accept me because you’re afraid of losing me, and then get hit with something else later.
If you reject me: It’s ok. I’m not going anywhere. I accept you. I accept everything you are, and I have laid my hurts and grievances aside as inconsequential and in the past. God knows I grind my teeth and rail against it at times, but you are who you are, and I am not a god to choose who you should be. If you are ever able to understand and come to terms with what I’m asking for, I’ll still be here.
If you accept me: You accept everything I am or will be. You accept that I live in what you believe to be sin. You accept that I can make my own choices. You accept that I am different. You accept that my friends are not people you can understand. You accept that I am a leader and a warrior and a woman who knows her own head, her own heart, her own soul, and her own path. You accept that you will not agree with what I have chosen to be, but you will accept that it is right for me, right here, right now.
Choose carefully. I was not raised with an understanding of love or trust that bred much faith in either concept, and I am not much for second chances. If you accept, and I have to go over this again, that will be it. I have to do what is right for me. I just hope that it can be ok with you.
As a reminder: this isn’t me disowning you. This isn’t me trying to manipulate you. This is me calling the boundaries and redefining the relationship here and now into something that we can–I hope–both live with.
I love you both, very much.