- Family and Parenting
Phoenix Reborn: Open Letter regarding the girl I once was, to those who exerted authority they will never deserve
Sometimes the endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth happens within one lifetime; perhaps even more than once, if the journey demands it. And sometimes open letters are useful when what needs to be said 1) probably won't be read or heeded by those for whom it is intended most, and 2) could potentially benefit many others who actually *might* read and heed it as those lessons pertain to their own unique journeys.
My first experience in this lifetime was as a girl who lived with continual fear, frequent pain, and persistent heartbreak. Why? Simply put, because she tried to live the life others - first her parents, then her ex-husband - planned out for her, instead of giving herself the freedom she was entitled to as a sentient creature.
These others were not 'evil' people, per se. They have done what I judge to be evil things, and both my biological father and my ex-husband continue to do evil things; but then, what human has not? It’s a near-universal human failing to follow religious or political morals dictated by anonymous powers-that-be which allow us to believe we are doing what is ‘right’ even as we perpetrate grievous harm against others; my ex and my father are no exceptions to that.
I am the villainess in many of their little dramas; I know that, and I am resigned to it, because the way in which they view the world is so opposed to the way in which I now view it. This open letter is mostly about them; addressed to them and all those like them:
My view? In very basic terms, it’s the same as that meme you’ve probably seen a hundred times reposted on people’s Facebook pages: Do no harm, but take no shit.
I don't know what the sad girl I once was would think of what you have done recently, because I am no longer her. I wear her face, and the already tired body she passed on to me, but I do not think her thoughts or feel her emotions or live her life.
Just about every culture I know of has some kind of resurrection mythology; of course we’re all familiar with the story of Christ, since that’s the most prominent resurrection story that pervades this culture; but the one that pertains to me – and to many others, if I don’t miss my guess - is much older: The Phoenix, that mystical ancient bird of jewels born from fire, of cyclic burning and rebuilding.
When the Phoenix's time is ending, it begins to build a pyre. Often it begins building without knowing what it's doing, without understanding the fire that's already kindling within its breast. It only knows a compulsion, an instinct it must obey. That was the case for the girl I once was; she began building her pyre long before she knew what it was or how she would end in the fire she herself became when it was complete.
She built that pyre as she questioned repeatedly all she had been taught from childhood; as she perceived alarming, abusive behaviors on every level in authority figures that proved increasingly undeserving; as her faculties for critical thinking sharpened despite all the efforts to keep her dull and submissive; as she studied frantically the ‘holy book’ so revered by the authorities in her life and kept coming up disgusted, morally revolted, with flaws and questions that finally proved fatal to her misplaced faith.
And when the time comes, every Phoenix is consumed in its own flames; self-immolation in a blaze of bright death. Oh, it looks horrible and destructive, and the case of the girl I once was, who became a Phoenix before she knew what she was doing, is no different. The fire in which she burned was seen by you as a terrible thing, a tragedy, a mistake she would later regret deeply.
But we all know that destructive, consuming fire is not the end of any real Phoenix: no kind of ending at all, for from the smoking ashes of the bird that once lived, a new Phoenix emerges. A hatchling wise enough to search the ashes for the precious jewels that remain of the life now consumed before she takes off into the unexplored horizons of a new life in another cycle.
The Phoenix, in one sense, never really dies. But in another sense, it dies often and painfully in blood and fire, then is reborn over and over again in an eternal cycle.
The point being this: The newborn Phoenix both is and is not the same as the former; who rose from the ashes both is and is not who went into the conflagration.
So yes; I am the Phoenix who rose from the ashes of the caged bird who came before me. I carry her lessons with me, for they, along with her children and her precious proven loved ones, are the jewels among her ashes. But I do not carry her perceived obligations. I choose what and whom I’ll allow to accompany me on my new journey, and with me, you must earn your place.
That goes double for those who caused so much pain and loss to the girl I once was. If I tentatively extend trust to you, who once devastated the sad girl whose life burned to ashes in order to make way for my life to begin anew, that trust better be justified. If it is betrayed, you will not get it again; not ever. You don't deserve it, and my gods do not require me to forgive or to submit or to bow to anyone ever again. My gods stand beside me, not in front of me.
You call me immoral, but in fact my morals are simply formed on a basis so entirely different from yours that your ignorance prevents your perception of them. You see, in many ways my moral standards are higher and sterner than yours; I believe in personal honor and integrity, which means I demand more from myself and hold myself more responsible than anyone possibly could who hides behind a morality handed down by others and never examined honestly; who gains an excuse, a free pass, for any and every ‘sin’ simply by asking for it. I classify ‘sin’ very differently than you do.
I feel strongly about many things; perhaps that is the nature of a Phoenix reborn.
One thing I feel strongly is that a lot of crap is talked in our society about forgiveness; it is not for me to tell anyone they must forgive. It is not for you either. We must each be sure our own conscience is clear at the end of each day, and that is where our moral responsibility begins and ends. That is more than enough to keep each of us occupied. You and I do not dictate the morals of others; if you believe a god dictates morals, your only legitimate concern is how YOU stand before that god, not how everyone else does. You are not that god; keeping your own integrity is enough, if you are honest, to occupy you for a lifetime – COMPLETELY regardless of what god/ goddess/ entity/ source/ conscience you choose to give account to, if any.
"Harm none, but take no shit" - that's what my moral code requires. For me, there are times when forgiveness is irresponsible. I choose whether or not to forgive wrongs done against me personally; but to forgive wrongs done against those I love, or others in general, is presumptuous. To forgive deliberate wrongs against people I am responsible to protect to one degree or another - my children first, then other family and friends in varying degrees - is downright immoral, unless there is some extreme mitigating factor. Proven changes in behavior, for instance.
And so, to every authority figure - especially the undeserving males - that dominated the first half of my life, up until I immolated the old creature and flew reborn out of your gilded cage:
I am not the girl you subjected to your petty religion, the one you filled up with your fears and your bitterness and on whom you inflicted your nightmares.
No, on the contrary - I am the woman who is your nightmares made manifest, for I have no obligation to obedience. You cannot control or intimidate me. I have been gracious for the sake of the poor girl I once was in the past; but from now on - for her sake and for the sakes of the beautiful fierce children she and I share - I will be implacably just.
Women are traditionally told in some form or another that anger is ‘wrong’; that anger is negative energy, that it is sinful, that it must be controlled and tamed and repressed in one way or another.
I disagree; anger is a source of power, neither good nor bad in itself. Its potential for change, its force and power, is why it has been so feared - particularly in women. And that is also why women must learn to use and channel our anger rather than pushing it down and away and under because it is somehow ‘unacceptable’ according to society’s norms.
Yes, it needs meticulous discipline, as does any source of power; but it is very useful when it arises in reaction to injustice. I will not apologize for my righteous anger; not ever again.
My daughter nearly died over the past six weeks, more than once. For me this has been another burning time; another death to much that no longer serves. There is no pain like the pain of watching your beloved child suffer, and being unable to stop that suffering.
I left my sons and my husband across the country, left my job, dropped everything because this is my precious child and nothing is too much to sacrifice for her. THAT is what being a parent means. My husband and my sons have been carrying the burdens back home that I left with them; but they have never once complained, because they would never think I should be anywhere but here with the daughter who needs me most right now.
It is because I know this so well that I can look without mercy on the parents who so repeatedly failed the sad girl I once was, who was once entrusted to them. She had a gentle soul, a love for beauty, and a desire for peace and for joy to continually shine on everyone around her. So she lived her life selflessly, trying endlessly to please her parents without success. Same for her former marriage to a loveless, joyless parody of a man who fails his children even more completely, if that is possible, than that girl's parents failed her.
So to these failures in parenting who litter the landscape around me: The primary job of a parent is to protect the children entrusted to them; when you fail that trust, nothing can make up for it. Can you give your daughter back her youth? Can you restore the wasted years before the first pyre finally released her to really live? No? Then you have no basis for an opinion on her life or input into mine.
You feel my daughter or I am obligated to you because you stepped up for once to actually help instead of harm? Wrong. Until you can restore the life you stole, you are in my debt.
The girl I was forgave you for what you did to her and how you failed her, and I honored that. My biological mother is the only one who has since then proven herself to be worthy of love, honor, forgiveness, or trust in this situation where my own daughter nearly died. She has been the only one with courage to acknowledge the wrongs of the past, the only one with the strength to say "I'm sorry" and lay her own life down to help in every way she could to support me and my daughter in her struggle for life.
In light of this, I offer my mother my respect, honor, gratitude, and love for everything she has selflessly done.
But my father? You dared to attack my child for being 'ungrateful' when she had just started to recover, to feel like she wanted to live again; in doing that, you entered a place from which there is no return. How dare you tell her not to 'play the victim' because your feelings were hurt, so once again you claim the victim role for yourself? How fragile are your feelings, that you can't put them aside during the healing process after your granddaughter’s near death? How much more important to you are your feelings than even the very life of anyone else, to even bring them up at such a time? That I will not forgive.
My brother's wife is even worse; to try to bully my daughter publicly for simply stating her own mind on her own Facebook page, when she is finally feeling well enough to express herself again - that is inexcusable. Beneath contempt; disgusting beyond belief. You are nothing to me ever again. You don't exist; you have crossed the line and there is no coming back.
I will not forgive anyone who deliberately hurts my children; they might forgive you, but I will not. I do have a moral code, and it does not include forgiveness for people who are continually proving their vast selfishness to be their ruling force.
As for my daughter’s father, who failed her so completely he barely showed up a handful of times in the six weeks she was hospitalized; who refused to come when she was actually dying; who refused to help her when she begged him to use his abundant resources to get her the specialized medical help she desperately needed; who dragged out the entire process until it became critical? The worst of my fury, my white-hot rage, is for you and the clownish clod you married. You are beneath all contempt.
You will both continue to rot in the overripe softness of the narcissistic, obsessively religious, pitiful existence you have created for yourselves, and I will continue to curse you until one or the other of us meets an end to this part of the journey. There is no mercy, no pity in me for you. It's too late to be sorry, to try to make up for it; there is no making up for this level of utter failure. You are too late.
Total strangers from your prayer group came to bring a gift and good wishes to your daughter before you bothered to show up, when she was hovering near death. They are witness to your failure.
Your own family has been at the hospital more than you have; faithfully sacrificing every weekend despite how hard they work each week. They overlook whatever negative feelings they might justifiably have toward me after the stories you must have told them of my supposed 'villainy', and they are gracious and warm to me because they love your daughter more than you are capable of loving anyone but your god - who is, in the tragic realm of reality, nothing but an endless reflection of yourself. You are utterly without excuse, worthy of nothing good.
Be thankful if your family chooses to forgive you, to treat you as if you are worth something; be extremely thankful for any kindness your children show you after you proved yourself such an abject failure so many countless times. But don't ever look for kindness from me; I wish you nothing but suffering.
And that's what this Phoenix has to say as the new horizons begin to dawn at last. This is a Phoenix who understands that light is nothing without darkness; that anger has as much validity as joy; that both summer and winter are necessary for growth and harvest; that respect and trust once lost MUST be hard indeed - nigh impossible, in fact - to win back, or they are worthless.
And this Phoenix offers no one any apologies for that. The ones who want an apology don't deserve one, and will find no softness left in me for them. My love, my gentleness, my softness, goes to those who need it. Never to your kind, which need to meet very harsh truth before kindness can do any good.
Huddle with your craven god in your hall of mirrors; you will find no sympathy in the wide, real world of fire and water, light and dark, pain and love. The best thing I can offer is a wish for your growth as souls, no matter what it costs you.
And it will cost you dearly. You have no idea yet what that means; but you will.