The Shadow In My Room
Ever look at a photograph and become instantly transported to that time in your life, along with all the thoughts and feelings you felt in that moment?
There are photographs that are difficult for me to look at. I’ll apologize now if this is written haphazardly, but this is something that I’ve wanted to write and couldn’t for the longest time. Couldn’t because I didn’t feel like I had the strength to complete thoughts without bursting in to tears, without becoming engulfed in the Sad that’s plagued me all my life.
Sometimes they’re difficult, and sometimes it makes me angry that I had to feel that way in that moment. I see photos of myself as a little girl, and I want to reach in and pull her close to my chest. I want to tell her it’s all going to be okay. That the fucked up things her family is telling her aren’t true, and all the weird; quirky and strange things she’s drawn to aren’t bad. You’re not bad. You’re amazing. Fuck them.
My family used to like to play this game called, “gang up on Tiffany in the car.” 20 minutes of hell from Elk Grove to Sacramento where they’d pick on how I styled my hair that day, what I was wearing, some random thing I said before getting in to the car. And God help me, if I fucked up or did something bad during an outing. “Just you wait until we get home. You’re going to be punished severely.” Don’t cry when we get there. Don’t be fucking embarrassing. Pretend to fall asleep if it’s one of those three hour drives from Elk Grove to Fremont. Smile and pretend like your soul wasn’t being sucked out five minutes ago.
You develop a wall around you. Brick by brick, the joy that made you vulnerable is replaced by cynicism. The smile that drew in the bad, is replaced by indifference. You learn not to give a fuck because it hurts too much.
I fucking can’t with people that tell me that happiness is a choice. Tell the fucking little girl in the back of that Mazda MPV who wishes the ground would open up and her swallow her to take her away, that she can choose to be happy. That she can walk away and surround herself with love — if she chooses it. That all the hate spewed her way on a regular basis is meaningless, even if it’s coming from the people that are supposed to protect her from the evil in the world. That the evil is outside, and not strapped alongside her in the next seat. Doesn’t burrow in to her heart and consume the good they tried to snuff out with each nasty remark.
And all I have to do is look at a photo and be right back there. No matter how hard I’ve struggled to unbuckle myself from the seat, make peace with the shadow in my room, forgive the hateful people I was supposed to love. That I do love, and always will.
Walls come down. Eventually with time, you can replace the cynicism with grace. Grace to replace the indifference with love. And maybe some day I can look at this photo and not ache. I can smile for the good memory that it should’ve been.
And then… I can replace the sad with strength.