Silent but deadly

There is a saying that “Silence is golden”.  I have heard that phrase many times but could never really understand what it meant.  As one of four children, and being reared in a European style family, silence was desired, but the need to be heard was way greater.  How could silence be golden?  True, gold was and is treasured, but I found that silence was more, well, deadly.

As I have mentioned, growing up in a semi-large family (3 other siblings) and having many, many, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, the sound of silence was actually deafening.  When we went to the library to the study, I couldn’t focus.  It was too quiet.  I needed someone yelling or arguing.  I needed the noise of a tv show or a radio show.  To this day, even while at work, colleagues will ask me about what other people were talking about and I have no idea.  I tune out to words around me.  If it’s not involving me then it doesn’t concern me.  Que sera sera.  I do know that while growing up, quiet rooms meant evil times.  Silence was deadly.

As mentioned, I grew up in a loud boisterous environment.  This is why I laugh when visiting people with newborns and they request perfect silence from their guests.  Really?  Let that child hear the guffahs and the ruckuss and they will sleep through anything.  Again, not my place (nor my children) and they can live on the edge of insanity trying to silence the world around them.  Life with no noise was unnatural and in many ways debilitating as the only time there was silence was when….ugh…it’s a horror I can’t stand to think about!  It was tramautizing, it was devastating, and it made all us children walk about in fear…my mother’s “silent” anger.

Yes, my mother had this “gift”.  I call it a gift because she had it perfected, like a magician can perfect a disappearing act.  My mother, the sweet woman who used to read me stories at night, the kind lady who used to bathe me and cuddle me.  That same kind woman who loved to joke and tell tales would suddenly have this strange look in her eyes as she gazed upon her brood.  No words were spoken.  It was during these unspoken word times that we were terrified!

We would gather around the dinner table and seat ourselves in our designated positions.  She would bring the pot of soup and place it on the table.  My father would begin prayers to thank God for our day and for our food and then we would begin our utterly quiet mealtime.  Well, on second thought, utterly quiet was difficult.  My younger brother and I were always big goofs and had a hard time being serious during meals.  We grew up in the generation of “beat your child into submission” so suppertime included many whacks with the wooden spoon.  Although this sounds abusive (which it really is) we children ended up laughing more during suppertime (even with whacks) instead of  being devasted.  But I digress.

We children all knew the telltale signs when something was wrong.  (Sort of like how we all knew my brother was coming home from University to visit if there was a marble cake cooling on the countertop).  The most irrevocable proof that Mama was to be avoided was when…gosh it was horrible…when you would walk through that front door and see her wearing “The Red Sweater.”  You would stand there bolted in place wondering if you should speak or try to run for your room before the verbal tirade would begin.  It was each kid trying to save its own hide.  If you were feeling generous, you could pre-warn the next person entering the home if she was out of earshot.  It was like a spy  network.

I remember the one day when I came through the door and yelled loudly, “I’m home!”  To which Red Sweater Queen came yelling at me around the corner, “Are you trying to scare me to death?  Why are you yelling!”  With that she stomped away muttering about stupid, ignorant children.  Ok, lesson learned.  Next time a situation like that arose, I wandered around the house, quietly, searching for my mother’s whereabouts.  I found her in the family room, watching television.  I popped my head into the room and softly said, “Hi!  I’m home.”  With that, she jumped out of her skin and off the couch.  Good thing she had that Red Sweater on!  Once again, the error of my ways, were recited, “Are you trying to scare me to death?  Why did you sneak up on me?”  Exit Red Sweather Queen with comments of “damn children, they’re trying to kill me.”

You might think I am overexagerating, but the worst freak out days were those days that she had donned her magical evil Red Cape.  Nothing could possibly be right with the world if she had that sweater on.  We had lived through the barage of insults that only a mother could summon.  She knew her children well and exactly what would emotionally scar them the most.  Good on you Red Sweater Queen!  We children learned to be extra aware of our surroundings when we saw red.

One day, we children managed to scurry out of the way in time.  My father was not so lucky.  He came home, late even, and there she morphed by the front door, eyes ablaze with the laser stare, the red sweater draped over her body.  Yikes!  We would become fatherless children!  She was going to kill him!  He put down his lunch pail and began untying his workboots.  We watched as her nostrils flared and she took one deep breath; it was about to begin.  “I just cleaned the house and you are dropping that filthy lunchbox on my clean floor.  All I do is clean up after everyone and no one cares.  Look at those boots.  Filthly!  You’re dirtying my carpet!”  My father suddenly stood straight upright, looked her in the eye and yelled, “If I can’t put my boots on the floor or the carpet, where am I supposed to stand, or should I just stand on my head?”  Oh no…he didn’t…by golly he did.  It was a face-off.  My mother, buttoned up her Red Sweater of death, crossed her arms and went upstairs to their bedroom.  She did not come down to dinner that night.  We did not see her when we were getting ready for bed.  We were going to be children of divorce!

The next morning, she was at the kitchen counter preparing lunches for everyone.  She silently cut the bread, added salami and cheese, wrapped each sandwich and put it in the designated lunch box.  She said nothing.  We said nothing.  She was wearing her cape of evil; the Red Sweater.  We were traumatized and worried, but there was nothing we could do.  We had to wait until the Reign of the Sweater was over.

It took three days for that to finally happen.  We had all miraculously survived.  The verbal barages were much preferred to the gouging silence.  That was the last of the great Red Sweater vows of silence.  One time, we plotted on how we could steal that sweater and donate it to Goodwill or something, but who knew what kind of transformation would happen to the next owner.  It just wouldn’t be fair.  We thought of just hiding it, but thinking about touching it made our skin crawl.  I recall the one day I was chilly and mama offered it to me for warmth.  Did she want to kill me?

Years later, we children are all grown up and love telling revisionist historical stories of the Red Sweater.  Everyone has a different story to tell.  The stories, though based on much truth, could be a wee bit exaggerated.  Only some.  Most of them are, cross my heart, true.  We actually told mama the one day about how she transformed when wearing that sweater.  She didn’t believe us.  We shared our tales and she laughed so hard she was crying.  She actually did recall many of the incidents but had not realized she had been wearing the Red Sweater.  It was great fun to laugh about it.  Good family times!

I myself, do not have such a prized possession (possessed possession).  I have a grey sweater that I used to wear a lot.  I got it back when I was in Grade 8 and it still looks great!  (“Shush…it does too!”  Wiseguy and the kids don’t agree with me.) Oh well.  It’s still in a drawer.  I’m waiting to flabberghast my grandchildren with it.  I brought it over to my mom’s house one day so we could laugh about it and reminisce.  When she opened the door I suddenly remembered that I had an urgent appointment for a root canal that had to be done that minute.  “What?  Since when?” inquired my mother, as she buttoned up the Red Sweater.

 

 

 

Forgive and (maybe forget)…but move on

Life is interesting.  A simple,  blasé thought perhaps, but true.  Life and the meaning of life is so different depending on where you find yourself on this so-called journey.  Is life about finding the “why am I here?” answer.  Is life about just having fun?  Is life about suffering so that you can live in a wonderful afterlife?  There are many schools of thought.  In the quest to figure out what life is about, I have been introduced to two specific types of people and I have been incredibly lucky to have met both types:  help you and hurt you.  Both of them have provided me with life changing experiences.

Through years of living (lucky me) and having my life journey cross the paths of others, I have learned, I have taught, I have lived.  I have had the pleasure and honour of meeting people that have helped me move forward in a happy direction.  I have also had the displeasure of meeting those that used me, abused me, and discarded me like a piece of refuse.  I am truly grateful to have met both.  Why?

There were those who appreciated me and helped me.  They showed me that there are true “givers” in the world.  These individuals taught me that kindness exists.  There are people willing to unconditionally assist you and help you grow.  There is no need for paybacks or “owe-sies”.  It’s about being a kind human, with feelings of love for their fellow man. A desire to let others grow.

Then there were the selfish folk.  Those who pretended to be there for me, but were really trying to figure out how I could help them out and make their lives better.  It usually ended with me being shocked, injured, scarred, and with a feeling of great injustice.  Lies, accusations, leaving me feeling worthless, dejected, lonely, unloved.   My extreme hatred of them negatively affected me, both physically and emotionally.  Why would I be grateful to these dregs of society?  They taught me to love.  Crazy?  Maybe, but I became a happier person when I learned to forgive and move on with living my joyful life.

Forgiveness…sounds simple but is oftentimes so hard to actually fulfill.  Forgiveness is not about condoning bad behaviour.  Forgiveness is about letting go of the anger and the hate you live with.  Think about it this way, you are hurt and angry and cannot believe that someone you trusted would hurt you.  You hate them and want to ensure that they suffer as you did.  You obsess about it.  How do these spiteful, vengeful thoughts actually hurt them?  Do they care that you are hurting?  No.  Do they feel any of your pain?  No.  Who is actually hurting?  You.  You are holding venom inside you and only damaging yourself.  The ones who betrayed you don’t even think about how they treated you and really couldn’t case less about how you feel or what you think about them.  They used you and then removed you from their lives.  In forgiveness, you are actually freeing yourself.  You are going to let bygones be bygones and go on to live a happier life.  If anything, these transgressors will probably be even more upset to learn that you are happy and are not affected in any way by past incidents.  That is the “giving” part of forgiveness.  You are “giving” yourself freedom; to love, to trust, to find joy, and your own peace of mind.

Those that rejected me were there to teach me that I did not need their approval or love to exist in a happy life.  Loving myself was and is most important.  Letting their misdeeds go so that they didn’t affect me emotionally was critical to my future happiness.  Forgive and forget?  I would forgive.  The forgetting was not something that I would or could easily do.   I truly believed it was important to remember past misdeeds so that in future I wouldn’t fall into the same circumstance …a.k.a. “Life Lesson”.

Thank you to those wonderful people in my life, past and present, who have been there for me when I didn’t have the strength to live by own convictions and beliefs.  You held my hand and guided me out of the muck of negativity that was sucking me in.  You brought me to the surface and breathed new life into my soul.  Words really cannot express my gratitude for having you in my life.

Thank you to the leaches and the soul suckers who made my life miserable.  Your thoughtlessness and selfishness taught me that I am worthy of love from others and especially from myself.  You made me work harder to live my life in the polar opposite way that you live your life.  Thankfully, your kind has disappeared from my life and I am surrounded by beautiful spirits who appreciate goodness, kindness, happiness, and a joie to vivre.  Truly, without my trials and tribulations that you exposed me to, I would not be living the great life that I now live

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” ~Maya Angelou

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” ~C.S Lewis