My mother was always just a bit too much. She was habitually loud in conditions that called for quiet, overly-emotional in settings that required tranquility and calmness. She was careless and altruistic, finding room in her heart to love everyone apart from herself. When her episodes would come, she would turn on all of the lights in the house and turn the stereo all the way up, chasing away our worries and gloom with the sound of Miles Davis mixed with the tapping of feet as we danced. Though she smiled often, the expression was often but an empty gesture, something meant to reassure us that we would all be okay someday. She apologized often, forgave easily, and adored her family even when we were undeserving. On nights when I was sure my heart would break, she would sit next to my bed and whisper, “The hurt always precedes the happiness.” I watched her passions consume her, her obsessive nature driving her towards madness. Even at the end, she kept a smile on her face and hope in her heart. She never stopped to question if it was all worth it.
My father, in contrast, was never quite enough. He was a man of few words and somber thoughts, soundlessly chasing his woes with a bottle of Jack Daniels each night before bed. Even before the inevitable divorce, my childhood was filled with empty chairs at school events and dinner plates left untouched. While my mother showered the world in warmth, my father loved only himself and that which could benefit him. He often spoke in riddles, puzzles meant to perplex us children into silence and restore the peace. While my mother cried almost daily, I am convinced my father never learned to shed a tear. He was emotionally distant, maintaining a lifestyle driven by order and futile procedures. While my mother often felt too much, it was unclear throughout my childhood if my father ever felt anything at all. When he met the end of his life, he showed no fear or regret. He seemed to simply accept what was to come and surrender, wasting no effort on emotional goodbyes or last minute efforts to change the past.
Most expected me, the daughter of two such extremes, to find a happy medium. Instead, I became a walking contradiction, the embodiment of both extravagances in one fragile frame.
There are days in which my heart feels heavy, consumed by sorrow and guilt over the misfortunes of persons I have never met. Others, I am lost in a sea of self-preservation and narcissism, allowing my own troubles to blind me to the struggle of those closest to me. There are times in which I desperately want to connect with another human, to feel the warmth of their touch or the joys of companionship. Other days I am grateful I’m a cat person – my cats will never ask me to go on walks or socialize with other humans. Some days I am clingy, wrapping myself around my lover’s figure as though seeking to trap them within my embrace. Other days I crave solitude, allowing myself to disappear into the murkiest corners of my psyche as I search for long hidden answers to the questions of my life. Some days I am too loud, yammering on incessantly regardless of who is listening. Other days the words seem to become trapped in my mouth, my teeth a dam to prevent the secrets from spilling out.
Some days I am too much.
Some days I am too little.
Some days I wonder if the madness will come for me as well.