Generations of anguish
By Brittney M. Walker
I was trying to think of something racy and controversial to write about this month, but I’ll tackle this small, but probably common thing first.
So my mom found my blog. Dun dun duuuun. Not that I was hiding it from her. Well, she didn’t actually find it. One of my aunts found it. She’s the chatty chatty aunt.
She’s the aunt of the family that somehow always finds her way into everyone else’s generally shameful business. If you want to know the worst things about so and so, she’s got the 411. “Guess who slept with so and so’s husband?” “Oh, and don’t you know so and so was seen all over so and so at the club last weekend?” “Did you know so and so is flat broke?”
She is also really helpful and provides what she can when she has it. She’s not a bad person. She’s human.
But her vampire-like thirst for gossip is dangerous. Lives are transformed; lazily stitched wounds are reopened with a rusty blade. Relationships are ruined. She kind of brings the worst out of people. There’s something admirable about a person like that, though, someone who has mastered the dishing of pain and confusion upon individuals. Someone who has perfected crumbling foundations with just her words. Someone who can unearth hatred. She is powerful. I think the thrill of the reactions from her chatter gives her power boosts like the video games. She’s like the boss lord on the last level when it comes to gossip.
Back to my mom discovering the cannabis and the rape and the lost Christianity. So she called me, holding back tears. I could tell. She’s a strong woman, but I can hear the pain, confusion, and turmoil in her voice. Our conversation confirmed that yeah, she didn’t know I wasn’t a Christian anymore. She still held on to the guarantee that I was still on my way to heaven, as my belief in Christ the Savior was still in tact.
It wasn’t until she read the post herself that she knew that ‘I ain’t Christian no more.’ This revelation was crushing. And that she didn’t hear it from me first was another thing. It had been delivered through the grapevine. She said I sounded angry. She said that my stance on Christianity was simply my opinion and that I hadn’t had a real relationship with Jesus Christ.
Someone in the family said, “Brittney has turned her back on God.”
And maybe she also experienced shame or embarrassment. In the dynamics of my mother’s side of the family, she, my saved and sanctified grandmother’s first born, failed at guidance, at motherhood since her first born got lost on the path to heaven. My mom got it wrong with me while everyone else’s kids are still in light of approval. “Well, at least so and so still goes to church.” “Well, I still love her,” as if my place in the family relies on my faith.
This, what my mom is experiencing, is all speculation informed by my decades long relationship with her. But my mom is in pain not just because her kid ain’t going to heaven if she dies tomorrow, but also, and probably mostly, because her Christian mother has subjected her to shame, whether that it was intentional or not. Grandma has suffered immensely. I don’t think she healed from those wounds. But she survived because of her faith in Jesus.
My mom endured a lot as a child. She witnessed abuse, she fought abuse, she was abused, she was rejected by her mother in some ways, rejected by her sister in many ways, forgotten by her father. She dealt with a lot and found a way to survive. As an adult, she’s tried to create closeness with her mother and this sister, my chatty chatty aunt, but rejection continues to wedge its way between her love and their hearts.
And so, that my grandmother and my chatty chatty aunt have this piece of juicy information, Brittney isn’t Christian anymore, her ability to mother well is in question.
Anyway, it’s weird trying to live your life out loud, as one of my favorite cousins says. Everyone is somehow affected, especially when their own boldness has been quieted by decades of pain.
Thankfully I’m not going back home to visit family for the holidays. I’m not really sure what I’d be walking into around Christmas dinner while gifts are being exchanged. Maybe an exorcism. I kid. Or an intervention. Prayer probably.
Oh and then about the cannabis. I only heard parts of that gossip, but there was plenty of talk, I heard, about Brittney experimenting with drugs. But only my mom and my adventure time auntie called me to learn what happened. Both were angry about how I had been violated. It’s nice to have support.
But something else happened. The chatty chatty aunt spread my story around, with her added opinions and fantasies. She also spread some of her own sister’s privately shared bits of trauma along with venomous rumors to outsiders, people who were not entrusted with such sacred secrets, such potent emotional triggers.
She strikes again. Her poisonous darts are flung strategically across boundaries. There is a volcanic explosion of unquenchably hot pain.
Tears were fallen and haunting wails were made. I wasn’t there, though.
I wasn’t there for any of it, as a matter of fact. I could be just as terrible as my chatty chatty aunt has been, spreading half-truths, sprinkled with lies and my own biases. I hope not.
But I do know this. There was an attempt (intentional or not) to assassinate joy. My joy, my mother’s peace, my adventure time auntie’s stability. My chatty chatty aunt’s brokenness, her subjection to pain, has enveloped her in a way that she cannot help but be the way it is. She is living her pain.
Living out loud is hard. I learn from my very powerful chatty chatty aunt that I need people like her, to encourage boldness and rebellion. Her disruption rocks a lot of people to their core. But I think they’re better for it. At some point, as least for me, there was a turn (it happened very early in our relationship), I achieved a level of Nirvana in the sense of inner peace about myself.
When my mom asked why I decided to share all my business with the world (you people reading this now), I stumbled over my words saying things like, “Because I should and because this is an outlet” and “This is a platform that could help others.” My own insecurity about why I had committed to such an exposing action revealed itself to me. But after a moment of questioning, I had decided that if I can be bold enough to put all my shit out there, who or what could hurt me? I had laid my whole self out there, for my own sanity.
I know everyone can’t or doesn’t want to or needs to do anything like I’ve done. But I think finding a space for liberation is one of the most transcendent acts of rebellion one could do for self.
I hope my mother and my adventure time auntie can find the boldness they need to unapologetically live out loud, to live their truths without shame. At best, my chatty chatty aunt is probably in need of her own liberation and is probably suffering an insurmountable amount of pain, alone. At worst, she’s crazy and hates everyone. Doubt it though.
Living out loud is hard. Living in pain alone is even harder.