Queridos Padres (Dear Parents)
An unfiltered letter to my parents.
The everyday slights, indignities, put downs and insults that people of colour, women, LGBT populations or those who are marginalized experiences in their day-to-day interactions with people.
There’s so much I want to say, but I don’t think that the words needed to truly express myself exist. Despite living under the same roof with the two of you for almost my whole life, I still don’t know who either one of you is, nor do you know who I am.
As a little girl, I always remembered wanting to be in your arms because I was scared of the world. I feared the late sounds of bullets being fired and soaring helicopters outside our barricaded home. I feared the way he would touch me when no one was looking. The way he told me that he loved me. Just his presence was fearfully overwhelming.
Their nasty comments chipped away at my agency, my self-esteem, my voice. I began to fear my existence. Because after I learned that I was a mistake and had been recommended to be aborted by the doctors because of my mom’s age, it only reinforced the insecurity that I was not meant to exist.
For so long I didn’t understand what love meant. Perhaps because all I could sense was fear. Till this day, I still feel the fear I felt when I was four, five, six. It’s why I’d crawl into your guy’s bed every night until I was eleven. And when I stopped, did you know that it began to manifest into uncontrollable anxiety attacks? Anxiety that I needed to hide from you both.
Ma, Pa, I struggled to feel safe at home. My issues were and still are hidden truths to you both. You guys were hardly ever there for me. But I didn’t know how to tell you that I needed you. Or that I love you. I always hoped, and it seems like I still hope, that you both would one day build that bridge for us.
It always felt like I had a million different moms_, yet you were never one of them._ Unfortunately, I subconsciously had to reject all of your emotional outreaches because I realized early on that you were dealing with too many past traumas to be emotionally available to me.
The night I told you about the sexual abuse, you didn’t ask how it made me feel. What fears it had caused or the scars that it left. Instead, you asked me to never speak of it again.
From then on, I felt like I could not count on you. Or the times I’ve opened about how much dad’s condition has damaged my mental health and has overwhelmed me from time and time again. And all you wanted was to take the “problem” away.
But I wasn’t asking you to take the “problem” away ma, I just wanted you to see that I was just as much pain as you are. I wanted to be heard and seen by you. Because you can’t protect me from this, but you could support me in the journey of finding the resilience and strength I need. But now even that seems too far stretched.
You were around more often. But I noticed that even though I had your physical presence, you weren’t mentally or emotionally there with me. Your worries, your anxieties, your inability to cope with your inner demons from the past made you absent in every way that I needed you.
You tried to hide me from the outside world and protect me from any danger in sight, only to leave me weak and vulnerable inside. But what has hurt the most has been the fact that you never told me that you’ve loved me. That you were proud of me. It never mattered how hard I tried to seek your approval, I never felt like I was enough for you. I tried to do it my way, to be true to myself and make you proud. Because I thought that’s what fathers do. They’re proud of their children for being the best versions of themselves. But you couldn’t give me that.
I write you this letter because these realities have been the cancerous thoughts malignantly growing within the depths of my mind. There’s always been something missing between us.
Mom, you’re not far off from being as ill as d_ad, and the fear of it being too late only eats me inside._ Every night I go to sleep with this unease that we do not have the safe space to express the fear, the pressure, the overwhelming anxiety that our present situation brings.
I’m well aware that we all try to find a hidden time and place to allow our pains to flourish. Alone. You both have always talked about having faith and staying strong. But having faith and staying strong does not mean pushing and shoving everything inside.
It means bringing it out to the light together, juntos (together). Because juntos somos fuertes (together we are strong). But it hasn’t felt like we’re together. That’s probably why we haven’t felt so strong, and why the ups and downs of life have felt so breathtaking. We don’t trust each other enough and believe that we’ll hold each other up when the waves come through.
I feel like I can’t tell you this forbidden truth. It’s not part of the culture. It’s not a custom. You taught me to hide, not to step upfront. To be ashamed of my emotions, not to express them. So I find myself lonelier than I ever have, even though I have the two of you alive right next door to my bedroom. For so long I felt this anger and resentment towards the both of you.
Sure, you weren’t the bullies. You weren’t the abusers. You weren’t the gang bangers, robbers, or murders. You weren’t the cause of your own medical emergencies, the car accidents or of all my pains and aches. But you also weren’t there.
It angers me that you wanted me to hide my emotional turmoil when our lives began to fall apart. When you asked not to cry, to hold everything back, to not speak the truth as to how much it hurt to see dad on the borderline of death.
To be honest, the selfishness of wanting me to hold myself together when everything was falling apart is something I do not know how to let go of. It made me resentful. It made me hideaway even more. Which is why while you two stayed up talking about your fears and worries at night together, I spent hours going through panic attacks and uncontrollable cry spells alone in my room. I hid the manifestations of my fears and anxieties because if the best of me hasn’t had a space on your plate, let alone the worst of me.
It’s disappointing to know that we couldn’t go through this together. Because I need you as much as you need me. But all you taught me is how to push away. It’s all I find myself doing. How do I bridge that which has never had a foundation?
By the time I figure it out, will it be late?
Because both your guys’ eyes are turning grey by the second. I find myself trying to hold onto every grain of sand that I can to just have a little more time to figure this out. How to bring two generations together in a way that it hasn’t before in our family lineage. You might have never seen me, but now I’m old enough to see you. Isn’t it scary to have to see you so far from the truth? But it’s all you guys ever knew.
You’d always tell me that I would “understand” when I got older. That I was just too young, too naive, too innocent to understand before. But I’m afraid that I see more than you. You couldn’t be there for me not because your jobs impeded you from doing so. It wasn’t the fatigue or tiredness after a long day. You just had never received that same love, care, and support that I was seeking from your own parents. They had given you what you have given me. It was all you knew. And it’s sad to realize that we can so easily become comfortable in this emotional emptiness because being and feeling require so much more out of us. And it’s also sad to see that our family history is only repeating itself.
I hope that these words that I’m writing help me find the courage to say them out loud to you because I don’t want to be a victim of your emotional unavailability and figurative demons. Because we can be so much more than this. It’s been one of my hopes this past year. For us to have that solidified peace before it’s too late. But time always seems to slip by with the most important feats.
I want to end with two final notes.
The first is for so long I thought about how I would forgive you both for being absent in my times of need. But seeing now how you guys couldn’t even be there for yourselves, I can only have compassion for your hurt inner selves.
But thank you for your efforts.
For allowing me to grow up more privileged than either of you. To have the education and the knowledge to see the pieces in a way you never have.
Now, I hope to put them together so that our past intergenerational traumas and fears no longer become part of our family’s future. To take a step towards a way of living that isn’t tangled by inner demons and open wounds, but one that has an actual emotional foundation where we are free and at peace.
The final note is that I’m sorry I wrote this letter in English. It was the only way for me to distance myself enough from these stored emotions to be able to finish writing it. I haven’t found the courage yet to say these words in my native tongue porque es un dolor que está enraizada en mi alma (because is it a pain rooted within my soul)…