From Behind the Glass Wall

And here it was. THE conversation with my parents…

I hadn’t been planning to tell them anything about the change in my relationship status, knowing that it would upset and worry them, but today during our Skype call, Dad specifically asked me how I saw my future with my boyfriend. He did add, “You don’t need to answer this question if you don’t want to,” but I decided that I wanted to.

I wanted to tell them because I didn’t want to be keeping anything away from the people I cared about and I was also secretly hoping for some love and support.

So I did. – I told them. I told them that I didn’t know my future at all and I had absolutely no idea whether it would be with this man or not.

Naturally, this response raised more questions than it answered.

Trying very hard to be as gentle as I could and as honest as I could, struggling to find the right Russian words for what I was feeling and believing in deeply, I tried to explain that it didn’t look like it was possible for us to be together at the moment, so we decided to stop trying to figure it out and just trust God/Life/Universe to take care of everyone and everything the best way possible.

Mom stopped looking at me, sinking into the dark cloud of painful thoughts that appeared around her head. Dad looked as puzzled as sometimes my students do when I try to teach them some Russian grammar.

I tried again, but then began feeling frustrated and concluded, “You know what, there are no words in the Russian language to name this because there are no concepts like this in the Russian culture. The easiest way to put it in Russian is, “We’ve separated.”

Several seconds of ringing silence felt like long minutes… “I knew that already,” whispered Mom looking down at her hands, her face twisted with pain. I’ve had this feeling for a long time now that nothing serious would happen…” “Then I feel offended for you!” Woke up Dad.

“Please do not feel hurt or offended. I am fine. I really am.” – Another round of lengthy and detailed explanations followed. I tried to explain that the Russian formula for a life (birth – day care – K-12 – university – full-time job – brief dating – marriage – children – annual vacations – retirement – grandchildren – death) was not “the only way to happiness.” That people did not NEED to hit all these milestones to consider their life “successful.” That “not being where you are supposed to be at your age” on this time line did not equal “misery, shame and failure.” I tried to explain that no disaster had happened and that I was fine.

While I was speaking, I watched Mom diving deeper and deeper into her painful thoughts about her “unlucky daughter.” And I watched Dad getting angrier and angrier with his “disappointing children” thoughts…

Neither my sister nor I have been following the “time line” very well. It’s never been an intentional, rebellious act; it’s just the way things have worked out (or “haven’t worked out” if you are Russian) in our lives.

My sister has been married for about 15 years, but with no children. I was married for 10 years before my divorce several years ago, which I was asked “to keep in our family” and not discuss with anyone in Russia…

Then suddenly “the sun reappeared in the sky” when I got into a relationship – a new marriage could partially erase “the shame” of the divorce and also my parents could stop worrying about me – I would “finally be happy and taken care of!”

That hope has just gotten crushed… My parents’ baby was 36 y. o. with no spouse or children, and no prospects of “happily ever after.”

Mom was silent, still looking down, in deep grief, and Dad went on a rampage… My sweet, dear, tactful and open-minded father was now feeling and speaking all the pain he’s been carrying for years…

The father who used to always add “FOR YOU” when anyone in my family expressed a strong opinion or a judgment about something or someone, and who taught me that we all had our own unique beliefs and opinions, and thus, it was unreasonable to expect anyone else to live by our rules, was now mercilessly judging his daughters and their partners: my sister had “a wrong husband, a wrong house, a wrong attitude, wrong ambitions and a very hopeless future.” And I had “a wrong ex-husband, a wrong ex-boyfriend, wrong values, wrong opinions….”

Even the things that had never been spoken before were flying at me now, things like moving to the States 12 years ago in pursuit of my “selfish dreams,” which caused my parents “unbearable pain.” Or no children being around to help out while my mother was in the hospital recently (despite my sister’s calling every day and offering to take a day-long bus to their town, but getting a “there is no need for that right now” answer, according to Dad himself)…

I tried to stay calm and centered. I tried to reason, desperately looking for the Dad who had taught me how to “reason” in the first place, but I couldn’t find him anywhere…

There was a thick glass wall between me and my parents, who were both in pain now, but both expressing it in different ways…

I started “knocking on the glass wall,” trying to explain that their pain was unnecessary, that nothing bad was happening, that all their rules about who must do what and when were made up, and this is what was causing all the suffering; but they couldn’t hear me…

“DADDY!” my inner child was screaming, trying to “wake up” my father, tears rolling down my cheeks… “DADDY!!!” I was hammering on the wall between us, turning my hands into a bloody mess, not noticing the pain and still hammering and sobbing: “DAAAAADDYYYYYY!!!…”

The wall was really thick and it was drowning out my voice… “Daddy,” I finally whispered, giving up, suddenly feeling totally exhausted…

Dad kept spewing out one accusation after another, and his words felt like a hail storm that I got caught in…

I stopped responding and he was now only interrupted by Mom’s occasional, “Could you please stop? You are giving me a headache.” “Please stop now. This conversation is making me very tired.” “Can we change the subject, please? Diana, we’ve just bought a new TV…”

Dad couldn’t stop. He was on a roll…

In my mind, I crouched in a room corner, ducked my head and covered it with my arms, trying to protect myself, trying to become as small as I could to avoid the stinging pain of every new word spoken…

“Do you even want to be with someone?” I heard Dad’s voice suddenly.

“Yes.” I answered quietly, without lifting my head.

“Do you even want to be married?”

“Yes.”

The attacks continued, but I blacked out for a while and didn’t hear what exactly was being said…

“When I was in college, the parents of one of my friends were working at a mental hospital. I went there with him a couple of times and I was amazed at how happy all the patients looked there…” – I suddenly regained consciousness and was wondering what on earth had been spoken before that made this a logical continuation…

“They all seemed to be very free, happy and carefree,” Dad continued.

“Maybe then they got the right idea about how to live on this planet.” I responded quietly.

“Well, if this is what you believe to be true, then there is really nothing for us to discuss! Good-bye!” Dad stood up and stormed out of the room.

I told Mom that I would write her an e-mail, pressed the red button to end the Skype call, and collapsed on the table…

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