In my 14th year I was standing alone at my uncle’s funeral (my father’s brother) with my arms wrapped around my heart, lost in thought about life and death. My grandmother (mother’s mother) came up to me, put an arm around my shoulder, and pulled me into her side, an action I hardly noticed and did not respond to. She released me and walked away. Within moments my mother came up, grabbed me by my shoulders, shook me and said “You cold heartless thing! You won’t even let your grandmother comfort you! I don’t like you right now.” With that she turned and righteously stalked off, leaving me hiding my silent tears, afraid that I someone would tell me to “stop crying or I will give you something to cry about.”
I was never physically abused, placed in dangerous situations, or denied those things that build happy childhoods. However I learned at a very young age to closely guard my heart against emotional ambushes filled with judgments and accusations. I was a changeling dropped into a family determined to trap and domesticate me with limits and boundaries I found unfathomable and terrifying. I struggled against a life of cages and recriminations while dreaming of running away with my imaginary dog to a distant Island where I could breathe.
Memories like this have faded into the mist but at times return, though without any emotional charge. The wounds have long since become beautiful scars of resilience and strength filled with glittering gems of independence and individuality. So why do they emerge like the half-eaten spines of a sunken ship at low tide, reminding me of the dangerous journeys I have chosen to weather? Perhaps meeting someone who daily lives with his heart wide open has seduced me into opening mine, trusting that the ghost ships of my past have no hold over me.