As a young girl, I never dreamed that I would travel as much as I have fortunately been able to. I didn’t think I would ever leave Texas (damn this and love this huge-ass state that takes 8 hours to get out of in either direction). I didn’t think I would ever have any close friendships and love the people who I am fortunate to be able to love now. My sweet friends who make me laugh, help me to cry it out, and share long, long, conversations for hours on end. How do we do that? My in-it-for-life partner. My soon-to-be in-laws. My deepened, improving relationships with my family members. For them, I am so grateful.
My father kept my immediate family isolated and only allowed us out of the house to keep up appearances (school, occasionally church on Sundays, or allowing Mormon missionary visitors…definitely another story) and to generate income as we could, as he himself did not (could not, truly) work. We socialized with a few other Lao families and always on my father’s terms. The consequences of speaking out against him or pushing back were severe. So we did not.
I was a lonely child, despite having siblings, for they were as lonely and oppressed as me. My mother’s oppression at my father’s hands is a different but interwoven story. We didn’t show each other affection; we didn’t say “I love you”; and we didn’t give hugs or receive them. How deep that hurts a child is too far to measure. We express our love now. I hug my mother several times before we leave each other these days. She laughs and always says, “Another? Okay!”
We were in it together, and we made it out.
I endured a decade and a half, broken up into The First Ten Years and The Last Five, of my father’s cruelty, while my older siblings lived most of their adult lives in his hold. My mother spent over 40 years with him. We are all still dealing with the repercussions in our own ways, and somewhat, together. (Huge thanks & shout-out to my counselor.)
My sister, Samout, in the darkest times and the most painful, difficult ones when faced with leaving our abuser, would say “We can’t live in fear.” And those words mean even more to me presently, compelling me to think about what living in fear did to our wellbeing back then, and how living in fear might, if we let it, affect us today.
These days, the responsible thing to do is socially distance ourselves from others and to keep calm, wash our hands, and try to live and function as normally as possible while working to protect our most vulnerable and each other. Having time to reflect, I know that right now, we are all in this together. Not just me and my family, but our community, our world, our existence as parts of a whole.
What is “this”?
The staying in our homes and/or having very limited movement outside. The trying to hold it all together when it feels like everything’s falling apart. The frustration that we are not fully in control. The loneliness. The yearning for human interaction. The desire to hug friends and loved ones. The wondering “When will this end?” The aching for things to be “normal” whatever that picture is for each of us.
I’m writing this for myself, but I hope it can help you somehow.