my mom greets me like a small child. Her eyes light up and she is filled with such love for me.
This is what flowed beneath the layers of suffering that was my mom- that was our relationship.
I hated her a lot. And I believed she hated me the same.
We must be careful who we deem unworthy of love but worthy of hate and abandonment. We must not dismiss a family as dysfunctional or a person damaged and leave it there as if it/they held nothing else.
I really know this.
For there were many necessary years I felt anger and betrayal- sometimes rightly so- and the only way I could function in our dysfunction was to protect myself.
And yet, now…
I feel I am a good daughter for sticking with her- for staying in the process, the journey that is ours.
I understand I needed to love her but couldn’t and wouldn’t and instead exchanged vulnerability for codependency (unknowingly of course).
I continue to play this out within my marriage.
And yet, now
I see the possibility that what flows beneath the wounds of my suffering might redeem me
What do you do when the world, at least as you knew it, is ending? How do you grieve that?
For me, a white cisgender woman, it started to end globally on November 9, 2016. I went on a bike ride the day after election night to my usual spot— an “island” on the Mississippi River. Before this day, I’d go there to reflect on my personal trials or to escape them. However, there was a new kind of angst— not only the weight of my personal life on my shoulders, but the collective life. It is not that I did not care before, this just felt different.
I wish I could find the words to express where I find myself now, 6 1/2 years later. I’d like a story or fable that would help me frame it, or to write my own if I could focus long enough and stay motivated. What I do know, what I am beginning to feel is there has been, and is, a lot of loss personally and collectively, a collective reckoning and grief process.
Our primitive brain likes to make it one thing because then that one thing can be fixed, managed or contemplated easily. But we are not in primitive times. These are complex times. We are complex and to think in this way is difficult, but necessary. These days, the loss isn’t just A, B or C, it is the whole damn alphabet and then some.
Just in my own life, I am started to comprehend the losses and how each one intermingles and connects to the others, and as they do their capability of fully sinking me is real.
The sinking has been happening. As I reflect I see I’ve sunk many times. As a teenager I wondered how could one person, still so young, cry so much. As a 50-year-old it is starting to make sense as I am sinking like that again and again.
Yesterday I could not find one think to pull me out. Then my husband asked if I wanted ice cream. In the ice cream line I found myself smiling, then I asked him if he tried the frozen peanut butter cups. Later a stranger approached us, happy and friendly as can be, and asked how we made our “love it” treat. Before this, I watched a small child look up at her older brother, saying “again” over and over to pick her up as she squealed. Once we got our dark chocolate with extra peanut butter ice cream, we sat on a bench outside and I saw the sliver of moon. I didn’t really eat my ice cream because the point was not the ice cream.
On the way home, Neil Diamond’s Hello Again came on shuffle. I cried again, a deep, hurting cry as if I was in physical pain. I said to myself: it’s my mom. She was and always will be my first experience here on Earth as me, Nikki DiVirgilio. Nothing will ever change this. And she, my first experience, has dementia and I miss her. There is a hole in me. There are several now, but she is at the center of them all.
It is weird for me to state this and experience it to be true. My relationship with her has always felt like a loss, but what it is now feels like that sliver moon, it is all that is left and what I had with her was more than I realized. She was a best friend, someone I called to vent to, someone I hung out with. Someone who created a million and one beautiful experiences and distractions for me, for us— vacations, cabin getaways, shopping, lunches, going to the “new” place and buying the “new” thing. Over time all of this became hollow for me, but now, sinking into nothingness, they were the things that kept me afloat. These were the days. That was my mom.
When I woke up the next morning, after several days of sinking, I didn’t care much about anything (balance, right?). I wondered what was the point, especially after reading a Twitter thread stating a very real possibility for the 2024 election. It’s not good. It’s bleak, and it seems the world, including my own, is over in the way I knew it. I don’t really know 1) how to navigate these times or 2) how to grieve or if I even can fully. But the sweater I bought was on my front step. I opened it, tried in on to make sure I loved it, and instead of folding it, tags on, saving it for a special occasion, I took it off, cut the tags, put it back on and decided today is the special occasion.*** 🌙🍦
Be well during this time,
~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
***snippets from a memoir I’m writing…well, several actually.
The parade in our town today clarified what I have done as a white woman with bi-racial children…
To all the times I brought my children to white spaces, moved to white neighborhoods, enrolled them in white schools- I am sorry and deeply ashamed of my ignorance.
I feel it now, more than ever- these words: “white supremacy is not a shark; it is the water. “ Guante
I get a small taste of the terror and discomfort, the trauma of being a brown body in this water. I am angry, which is a privilege of white skin, at the levels of energy it takes to accommodate and appease this white nonsense- to play nice in white work places- and can only imagine their exhaustion.
I feel this whiteness in a way I never have and I’m horrified. As though I’ve fully awakened from a spell that made me live as if this water was made for everyone. It’s not.
This awakening was and is a process that I want ALL white people to be responsible for. To believe in white superiority, to attach to whiteness is one of the biggest lies ever believed. It will crush those who don’t realize this. And so be it because the water is changing.
To my children, I wish I had understood sooner. It was thoughtlessly out of touch of me to be blind to this part of you. I fell in love with a black man. I wanted a family. I believe in the divine within us and most of your upbringing I ignored your experience as also a human being in brown skin, barely swimming in this water, but mostly isolated and struggling not to drown in it.
No apology can erase the impact of this. And I’m not here to give false hopes and promises in a nation still deeply young and divided, struggling to know itself. But I do see you and hold the space for all of you and all of your experiences more than I ever have, and it is my deepest desire that this water nourishes, supports and allows for splashing, deep dives and takes you to wherever you want to go.