For the last few days, there is this bit of audio that keeps playing in my head. It’s a quote that’s stuck on loop. This often happens to me a lot. If for others the tendency to get songs stuck in your head is called an earworm, my head is one of those little styrofoam cups of nightcrawler for sale in gas stations and bait shops. This is not as fun as the chorus to SOS by Glorius Sons (seriously, listen to this song).
This is a quote on repeat. There is no hook, there is no musical accompaniment. Its just words. And they won’t go away. I can hear it as clear as day, over and over no matter what I’m doing, no matter what’s going on, no matter whatever else I’m blasting in my ear canals to try to cancel it out. It’s in there, burrowed down deep inside like a parasite.
It’s my mother voice, nasal and deep fried and tainted yellow by cigarette smoke snarking
“You see your Hell here on Earth.”
As I’ve said earlier, religion was never a strong point in the household I grew up in. My father was a lazy Methodist. My mother only cared about God when she could use the idea as a means of punishment. So they were Christian in nature but not knowledge. They knew what most ignorant Christians do. In the way that anything other than what they say and what they believe in is wrong. So, people of other races, religions, sexualities, nationalities, etc were wrong. Now we didn’t attend church or pray as a family, but as kids we weren’t allowed to say “bad” words (butt, suck, hate) or cut our hair. And good ole Mom used to brag that she knew more about the Bible than the Jehovah’s Witnesses that would come to my great grandma’s house. Which is funny because growing up the family Bible was always located in the back of the trailer in the cabinet above where the washing machine was. The laundry detergent spent more time with it then she did.
The core of this is that while she may have put on airs about it, she was not a Godly woman. She was not a woman of Christ. And by that same token, she was not a learned woman either. So her view on where you found your own personal Hell was not as philosophical as it may have sounded. This phrase that she was repeating in front of baby me, enough times to burn it’s way into the core of my memory, was not a lesson in being responsible for your own actions. Or for being aware of what your actions create. It was nothing so beneficial. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
It was a trip wires laid across the field of my childhood. It was the passive-aggressive moanings of an unhappy woman who regretted the decisions she made. It was someone who didn’t want to be there and wanted those around to know that they were the reasons she still stayed. My mother had made her own Hell, and I was a part of it. And no matter how good my grades were, no matter how good my behavior was, and no matter how much I loved her, I couldn’t make Hell any better. And she kept letting me know.
My issue with the phrase is, as a mother (and trust me, I know the annoyance of using that phrase) why in the world would you use that as arsenal against your own children?i understand there is no making sense of abuse caused by untreated mental illness. I understand there are just people who shouldn’t be parents. But somehow you’d expect that sort of nihilism to be either explained or sugared if it was going to be force fed to children right?
The other thing that is troubling me is that I can not get this out of my head. I do not want to have this woman and her issues taking up any more space than needy in my already cluttered mind. Usually, the only way to rid myself of an earworm is to listen to the full song. Recently, it was “X” by Poppy. I got it stuck in my head and then listened to it a few times and boom, it was out of my head. (At least, until now cause I’m totally listening to it again.) But I can’t do that with a quote from someone I have no interest in communicating with.
Also, it’s kind of hard not to see the world as a being a little bit of Hell right now. Maybe its not coincidence that I started hearing it around the time of the Christchurch shootings. Part of me is wondering if maybe the old bag is right? Maybe we make our own Hell. Despite her own ideas about the afterlife and her facade of belief, is it true that the worst torture we can face is being alive? Is living the ultimate punishment? Is this world the worst place we can be? What’s better than here?
I don’t think I need to go into why giving thoughts like those even a second of time is dangerous. Thinking this world has gone to shit and there’s no relief coming doesn’t leave much room for growth. It doesn’t leave much room for living. It doesn’t leave much room for anything. And that’s not true.
There is room for love. There is room for life. And there is room for all the good and bad things that come with living. Living is not a punishment. Yes, sometimes it’s hard. And sometimes there are things and people that make it worse, but being alive and being free and being HERE, is not hell.
The idea of Hell, with it’s demons and torture, has no place in our existence here on Earth. We can make decisions. Good or bad, they are all part of our story. We can make better ones and change our path. If we need to be better, we can try. We don’t have to turn our pain into poison to try to sicken those around us.
Look, I’m just shy of my mid 30s. I feel that I’m almost too old to keep picking at this mother wound. For what it’s worth, it’s smaller than it’s ever been. I feel like it’s got some nice scar tissue forming on it now. I got to test it’s thickness out not too long ago with a chance Wal-Mart encounter and it did just fine. But every once in a while, the damn thing itches. This must be one of those times. Hopefully, talking about it here will exorcism this thoughtworm from my brain and make it go away.
You do not see your Hell here on Earth, Dear Readers. Your existence is not hell. Please believe that. It is the wonderful, messy, beautiful, scary, amazing, thing it is. And it and you are not a bother to anyone. Don’t listen to any entity that makes you feel otherwise.