Me And Mum; Navigating Relationships
Mother’s clothes and shoes lay scattered all over her bedroom floor. A stench of desolation hung in the house. I asked father why he did it. He said it was the anger. Anger made him do it. I feared my 13-year-old sister would be scarred by the mess if she saw it. So I locked the room before she returned from school.
Mother had stepped away to her cousin, to breathe for a week. Her heart heavy with the brute and ambiguity of an umpteenth argument. She was tired, but wasn’t leaving for good. Which I didn’t want her to, but in my heart of heart, badly did.
When she came back home on Tuesday evening I told her,
“I’m scared of marriage, mum. If this is what it comes to.”
She said, “marriage is like luck. You can get a good person, or a crazy person. You decide what to live with.”
I guess she chose crazy, because though dad had his good days like when he told really funny jokes, his violence emptied all joyous memories in our home.
Being a first born son there are all these social expectations heaped upon my life. Like I should be the first to marry before my siblings. Even culturally, my younger brother cannot erect his little hut in our father’s boma before I build mine. Neither should he marry before me. Sometimes I pretend to understand the customs were meant to promote mutual respect among younger and older siblings. And sometimes I bluntly speak out against them because they don’t make sense.
The childhood trauma I endured watching my parents fight for years on end emotionally bruised me. I was ill-equipped with skills to be in healthy relationships. As my mother had to be ‘correct’ in my father’s eyes – play her role as a wife according to his constructs, it meant she had to play small to satisfy his ego. She screamed to be heard and fought for her space in the marriage.
And so I thought relationships work that way in the normal world. I did not know anything different. That if you loved somebody and they seemed not to see you or act like they loved you back though they said it and wanted you around them, you had to do the work for them. They possibly needed your help to see you, to love you like you want to no matter how much you’ve communicated it and let your needs known. If they ignored you, give them some time they will come around. If they didn’t then go after them and tell them you’re sorry for making things difficult. But never leave no matter the circumstances. Never leave.
My twenties were havoc. I was growing into my own man programmed with misconstrued ideas of relationships, battling post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety. And needing to be badly loved. On one side, I left relationships haphazardly whenever I found something that felt better in the moment, hurting lots of people in the process with my coldness. And on the other, I stayed in places I was dehumanized thinking I could work myself through regardless of the emotional violence I endured. It was defeating.
But as I grew older, it was my mother’s tenacity and gentleness that I latched to again. The resilience of working on myself, saying I want it better henceforth. It meant going for therapy and cleansing my circles. Well, mother never left her marriage for reasons best known to her, but I was done with my father. My therapist told me to mourn the childhood I never had and the father I might never have. I accepted life happens and whatever I decide in my healing process, whether to want to talk to him or not is completely valid.
I still made mistakes with how I chose to enter relationships but got better with time. And I’m extremely proud of myself that I chose to move forward. I chose to want better. To question the idea of masculinity that stubbornly shaped my worldviews. To hang around women that felt safe for me as a heterosexual man. To never ignore my intuition while balancing dealing with anxiety. And to love myself through it all.