Insanity: The Short End of the Stick.
One night, when I was around seven, my mother decided to kill my father.
I don’t know if she put much thought into it, or if it was just a spontaneous combustion of years of unhappiness, unrelenting alcoholic binges, and his marital infidelity. All that, combined with the DNA she inherited from her mother, created a giant Molotov cocktail. It was absolutely terrifying.
She came in that night, charging into the bedroom I shared with him, brandishing a butcher knife, her nightgown flying open exposing voluminous breasts, and I felt all the air sucked from my body. Far away, I heard someone screaming. I suppose it was me. I watched, in slow motion, as she raised the butcher knife over her head and it came crashing down, headed straight toward my father’s heart.
Between the noise and the screams, he woke, and his arm instinctively blocked her impending stab.
Then, it was over. I got up, guided her back to her room, gave her something to settle her down, and put her to bed. My father left, never to return.
I knew, of course, that the woman he left me with, the woman who kept me for the child support she received and which she hastily drank away each month, would one day put that knife in me. It took a long time to realize she already had.
I never cried, not once, after that. I never felt anything. If I did, it was only terror. I tried to keep it as contained as I could. Still, I had nightmares every night of my life until I was 18, and moved out of my mother’s house.
Today, there are still pieces missing. It’s okay. I’ve done lots in the world, along with way too much self-help. I lived in a pile of self-help-ness. But it wasn’t helping, I knew somewhere there was something that felt deeply wrong. I was just always secretly unhappy. I just couldn’t figure out what it was so I could fix it. This went on forever, only to be broken up by mad busy-ness.
I did stuff like school and trysts at colleges and degrees and a zillion jobs and starting businesses and selling businesses and getting married and having babies and getting divorced until I became penniless and homeless and had to work my ass off until I made a pile of money to hide the shame of my poverty and then almost lose it all again because some goddamn crooks on Wall Street or wherever messed the economy real good.
But I never gave up. Well, I did and I didn’t. Someone told me it was god’s money, really, and I was so tired and beaten by then I said okay. And i I let it all go. Sort of. But I tried. Hard. To not lose everything. Everything, of course, being the house.
I used every ounce of my creativity and I had survivor desperation, until I was just too exhausted and did give up. I surrendered. I surrendered to losing it all. Letting it go. All the one million dollars I had worked for my whole life. Then, somehow, I made it happen. I held on. I recovered. I borrowed… a lot.
Banks who trusted me gave me money, and friends loaned me money on credit until I was able to sell the house that almost put me under. Our house, my house. The one and only home I ever had, the home I raised my boys in. I had to under-sell the house I almost lost four different times to pay off all the money I borrowed so I didn’t lose everything. And I cried about that for almost two years.
The guy who bought it unknowingly told me he makes as much in one freakin’ commission check as I made in 15 years of blood, sweat, and bloody tears. I’m sure he meant no harm when he said it. But it did not help.
Of course, there was that stupid relationship I stayed in. The one that almost killed me faster than the broken economy, that killed my spirit and my chutzpah and lost me every friend I ever had because they were so sick and tired of hearing about it. The bad ride. The guy who took the place of my mother. Who said he loved me while simultaneously lying and cheating.
I have to say, this really messed with my head. I mean, I was a mess. Until I finally left, that fourth time.
After much soul-searching, I discovered the reason I stayed so long was simply because I didn’t know I deserved better. It took his entire family deciding they hated me to help me reach that understanding. So I finally left. I couldn’t deal with all that hate.
Why did I stay? Because it was all I thought I deserved. That was the wound. That was the part that needed fixing after all those years.
Not a new and bigger business.
Not shinier, bouncier, hair.
Not a smaller waistline.
It was my soul I needed back, and my heart, and my desires.
I’d been a poster child for the definition of insanity when I was a living time bomb. I wanted it all to change and it never did and I didn’t know how to fix it.
I know it gets so bad sometimes, someone actually will kill themselves. I wish I could say that would never happen. For anyone. Not that I hadn’t ever thought about it. I especially thought about it when I was young. At that time, when I fantasized about being dead, it was mostly to imagine who would go to my memorial, who would show up, who would maybe care. That gave me a sliver of hope.
Maybe someone would be sad if I was gone. Maybe someone would finally care.
Now I know for sure I got one thing right. I’m a good mother.
Maybe every mother thinks that, but I know it’s true.
Paulina Graziose is an entrepreneur, a free spirit, and a truth-teller. You could contact her via her website.