15 Jan The Iris Journal
Unlearning, Learning and Rediscovering. It has been quite a journey. The past couple of years have been eye opening on almost all fronts..I still tend to fall in love with a blindfold on though.
These days I question myself a lot. What ideology is the pseudo new-fashioned society flexing on?
Because the ideology I had while growing up is very contradictory to what I believe in NOW.
It is a very strange time to have an opinion, to voice an opinion and explain your opinion. Yes. EXPLAIN your opinion..because having and voicing them is just not enough anymore. Probably 7-8 years ago, I would not have bothered about the political climate, socio-economic conditions, gender disparity, homophobia, sexism, feminism, communalism etc. I would have felt bad and defended myself if something or someone offended me or someone close to me..but that is about it.
Well, then what changed?
Listening to people about their issues forced me to question the harsh realities of my life. I was aware things were wrong, but I never knew that I can question them..let alone change them. I knew bullying was wrong. I did not know that I could stand up to emotional bullying and finally say STOP. It did not end but it stopped. I was raised like a princess by a toxic father..brainwashed into believing that nobody else would ever mean as much as I meant to him. He described jealousy as a perfectly acceptable emotion if someone else is taking what belongs to you. I grew up competitive, stubborn and fragile. He would test that theory sometimes by showering all his attention to someone else while I sat sulking and questioning myself if I had done something wrong to deserve that. To an 8 year old girl, it was life affirming to have her father’s approval on everything. As I grew older, I realised this is wrong and alienating. As long as I topped or got good grades I was the Queen of everything I touched but if my grades fell, I was iced out for weeks. I felt I had to work hard for everybody’s approval. But I would obviously not question it. Who questions parents? Imagine being trained to become a people pleaser at that age.
Imagine growing up in a functional but broken household. Sometimes like a dream boat sailing smoothly, sometimes like a perforated boat sinking slowly in a storm.
Things changed a bit more when I was a teenager. I noticed and made mental notes about everything that felt wrong. I wanted to talk to my mother..I wanted her to understand that I understand her. But two problems. Teen Angst and my father. I don’t have to explain teen angst and I cannot explain my father. I was always torn between not failing, upholding his “ideals” and choosing to have a healthy relationship with my mother. It was never easy. I could never win. I always had to choose between them..and I always ended up choosing him putting him on a pedestal and alienating my mother, blaming my hormones.
When I turned 21, I wrote down in my actual physical journal..“Sometimes your heroes fall..It hurts. Sometimes you realise your hero was NOT a hero after all..and you have no one to put your belief in..Adultery is unacceptable.”
Yes. Adultery is unacceptable. But you know, after all these years..I have realised that there is something even more unacceptable than adultery..Tolerance. Because Tolerance breeds Evil. I spent the next few years trying to find a way to save everything. I failed..miserably. Why is it that we are taught to agree with parents/elders despite their toxicity? Why is self-sabotage in the name of respecting elders glorified? Why not assert that “Respect is Earned.”?
I unlearned that parents are always right, perfect and ideal.
I learnt that it is not easy salvaging broken relationships.
I learnt that choosing to do what’s right will always be difficult, painful and sometimes traumatic.
I rediscovered myself in at least one way. I don’t have to be perfect and please everyone. I just have to choose to do what’s right and the rest will fall in place even if it feels painful at that time.
The idea was never to romanticize abusive parenting. Yes, toxic fathers inadvertently raise strong women. But abusive parenting is not a requisite to make them strong. It has taken me years of therapy, self loathing, humiliation and a very questionable people-pleasing behaviour to write all this.
It is not just about emotional bullying. It is mostly about the guilt I have carried all these years for every single heartbreak. The feelings of inadequacy are like monsters under your bed. They creep up when you let your guard down. If you have someone to fight it with, you are blessed. I have had the support of my mother, brother and friends like family.
Everybody is struggling with something and fighting off their personal demons. I have my own questions. Is this toxic parenting responsible for the ginormous hole in my heart for love that makes me cram whatever I can find to fill it up? I kept shoving squares in circles, hoping it would fit. As a child, teen and a young adult, I have settled for less than what I deserved. I struggled with depression, OCD, body dysmorphia and PCOD. I feel helpless sometimes and my heart goes out to the people who have grown up like this.
What can I do to help them and myself? I can unlearn decades of toxicity and ideologies which criminalise and vilify personal life choices.. I can learn to be supportive of friends AND strangers to create a safe space for everyone to co-exist. I can rediscover myself by healing from my own trauma so that the buck stops here.
I am not perfect but I am learning what is right.
And that is enough for now.