These Arms That Open Out To Grab A Hold Of AnythingMonica Bielanko
The first line of the first song on the first album that Serge released with his former band, Marah, occurs to me a lot.
These arms that open out to grab a hold of anything…
That lyric, though, it kind of defines my life. Epitomizes how I’ve lived the past 35 years. Arms open, trying to grab a hold of anything. Sometimes in a positive way, opening my arms to new people, places, exciting adventures, but mostly it’s felt like one long, desperate grab in the manner of a player lobbing a basketball in the air, attempting a clutch shot, a buzzer beater as the clock runs out.
I am an empty person clutching for something, anything, just trying to figure it out.
The whole thing reeks of melodrama, I know. I don’t mean to sound that way but when one attempts to describe one’s pain with words on the internet it can often be perceived as melodramatic, probably because it often is. And maybe that’s what I am: melodramatic. I feel exactly opposite of that, though. I feel as if I spend a lot of time jamming down my pain until it starts leaking out of my body in random stuttering exhales while alone, in shoulders so filled with tension they are crowding my ears for an hour before I notice and force myself to relax. Jamming it all away, hiding it while trying to be funny in a desperate attempt to change the subject of my mind or maybe show you that, see, I’m a positive, self-assured person just like you.
Mostly, I just feel like a failure as a proper human being, whatever proper means. Mostly I feel like I’m masquerading as a self-confident, together gal. Especially when it comes to relationships, specifically marriage. Often, it just seems like everyone around me throughout life, during school and during my career as a journalist, was so well-adjusted, apparently raised in relatively calm environments where adults imparted wisdom and showed their children the right way to conduct themselves by example.
I have old friends that I absolutely cannot envision scream-crying into a towel in the bathroom while they run the water to keep from being heard, trying to catch their breath during what is likely a panic attack. Maybe they’re good at keeping their game face on, but I was pretty close to these people for years and never experienced cracks in the facade. Then again, I have cultivated a pretty hardcore game face and the only evidence of the cracks is my online writing. If you were to meet me in person you would be fooled, I think, by my carefully crafted bravado.
That’s little consolation, though, when I generally feel like I don’t know how to have a proper relationship, how to be married, how to parent because I’ve never seen it done functionally. Serge too. Which makes for a couple of dysfunctional yahoos – that don’t know shit about being calm, rational human beings – who have vowed to stay together until death do them part. Oh boy.
We both come from similar situations. Dads split and moved out of state when we were both very young. At least I saw my dad a few times a year but he still wasn’t involved in my daily life. I don’t even think he met the boy that knocked me up at seventeen (my boyfriend for several years) or attended my graduation or anything. Serge’s dad, a raging alcoholic, completely disappeared with his girlfriend for something like twenty years before popping back up when Serge was in his thirties and still, Serge doesn’t have a whole lot to do with him – he certainly isn’t a father figure. Both of us were raised by single moms who had to work and so weren’t around much either. A lot of yelling, we both grew up around a lot of yelling and plenty of physical violence.
Anyway, now that I’m attempting to forge my own parenting path, especially now that my beautifully feisty daughter is turning 4-years-old, I am acutely aware of how ill-equipped I feel to deal with various situations that arise and I think Serge suffers from similar feelings of frustration and inadequacy. But, at least on that front, the parenting front, I feel like instincts and that insane love you have for your children pulls us through, helps us blunder our way through the tough stuff. Not so with our marriage. I just don’t think I know how to be in a relationship. I’m sure all my ex-boyfriends can attest to that. They knew it. They experienced the insecure girl who rages in an effort to hide the insecurity, who is capable only of expressing anger instead of the emotion she is actually feeling which is usually fear or sadness. Any emotion apart from anger exposes a weakness to loved ones who will most certainly exploit it at a later date, don’t you know?
I read the blogs of old friends who seem to have the marriage thing all figured out and I wonder if they’re kidding themselves, lying to the world, or if they’re just that much more functional than my crazy ass.
How do you overcome a dysfunctional childhood? How do you overcome a lack of positive relationship role models? Even now, man, I am hard-pressed to come up with a couple I know who has what I would consider the ideal marriage. But then I am skeptical about every marriage, especially the ones who spend a lot of time telling you how happy they are.
So yeah, I am really noticing my personal deficits and, in an effort to figure out how I got this way, have started to remember things from my childhood that, now, as a parent, I find alarming. The details aren’t important but the general gist is that I was left to my own devices pretty much from the age of five and when I wasn’t on my own there was a lot of fighting in my home.
I guess all this recent introspection comes from struggling within marriage and parenting and growing older but not feeling wiser. Not only not feeling wiser, but feeling more inadequate than ever. In your twenties you don’t really devote much time to analyzing your strength of character and how you got to be that way, you’re just too busy grabbing a hold of anything in that positive way I mentioned earlier. But now, standing squarely in my mid-thirties, I have devoted hours of thought to a lack of social skills, (intense social anxiety) parenting skills, relationship skills that all seem to be a result of the environment of my childhood. And what’s to be done about that now? Yeah, yeah, yeah. A shitload of therapy, I guess.
In a week or so Serge and I will begin our ninth year of marriage, which I think will mark a point in which we’ve both been married longer than either of our parents were. Kind of a weird thing. Like living past the age at which a parent died. Most of our siblings aren’t married, have never been. In fact, only my older brother is married and I think his marriage is, as he would tell you himself, less than ideal. He probably suffers from the same things I do as a result of our similar childhoods. Are we doomed to repeat the cycle? No! I don’t know… Maybe?
The alibis that we’re without
Have rendered us repeating
The same old things over and over again
Which is kind of self defeating
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