PARENTALIA

Posted by Alyssa Polaris on

 

In December of 2012, carrying only a suitcase with clothes and my laptop, I hopped on a plane and took flight to the other side of the planet, it wasn’t supposed to be a permanent move, I just wanted to experience snow for the first time in my life, so I negotiated a 6 month deal for a job and accommodation at an enormous old house in the Finnish countryside.

I had just gone through a messy breakup and didn’t have a good relationship with my parents, years of depression had culminated in a single event that changed my family’s loving tenue and turned me into a miserable human being who wasn’t too pleasant to be around with.

 

(A young and dissatisfied Alyssa)

 
It wasn't easy on my parents to see their once happy and enterprising daughter unable to get out of bed on some occasions under the weight of personal turmoil, swimming in anxieties. I knew this, but it didn't help that my mother would attempt to resolve her frustration with me by finding ways to fault and disregard my experience whenever I appeared fragile, mean snipes were almost expected were I to cross paths with her around the house. My father, whether consciously or not, didn’t seem too interested in this dynamic that felt almost theatrical in its drama.

As I landed in this fresh new soil, a special sort of energy washed over me, an unspoken safety and understanding, I experienced ineffable epiphanies, and re-framed my perspective to better suit the simulation I was immersed in while laying in my pod of fluid.

 

 

I've been since then, through various batches of friends, all with transitory and tenuous connections, because it's hard to maintain connections with new people when none of those people share anything substantial in common with you, except the disorienting experience of relocating to a new country. Being an immigrant doesn't seem to allow the idea of a community to take root terribly well.

But, even as an anchorite, life was to be lived, and adventures were to be had, and so I put my jetpack on and propelled upward and forward, all systems go! Eventually I flew so high that from the distance, softened by the clouds, land and all its life looked like a faded dream.

But one can only spend so much time at that altitude without feeling sick, so I came back down to a passing blur of bewildering, ever-shifting, sometimes ridiculous crises of existential proportions. Plague, war, the world on fire.

Time on the ground seemed to be going in reverse and suddenly I found myself a brewing storm of hormonal chaos, I was 16 again, or that’s how I felt, pouring fuel and igniting residues of the past over the threat of a visit from my parents. Yet in all my angst there were bursts of optimism, the freshest memories I have of my life with them conjure up heartbreak and hostile scenarios, but it wasn’t always this way—mom and dad were once the provenance of happiness, and maybe if I pantomimed the jolly good girl I was before my most successful mental collapse, we could pretend it never happened.

Rewind to the morning I left, I didn’t bother to wake up anyone in the house, from which I was eager to get away, no goodbyes, I couldn’t have predicted that a decade would pass before I would see my family again.

In words of Jean de La Fontaine, “a person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” Mine turned out to be re-encountering my kindred without the philosophically accusatory, desolately angry, sour, and tired reproaches that had once become our way of communication.

For the entire two weeks I hosted my parents and sister, things went smoothly, still, I trod lightly, I knew to keep an affable approach for them, and some emotional detachment for myself, lest I wanted to revert to that person who chose to escape, but the experience endeared me to the idea of ameliorating our estranged, yet tender relationship.

 

 

They have been gone for almost 2 months now, and I’ve had the time to understand that my constraint probably prevented us from truly reconnecting, maybe a better approach to strengthen our bond would be to let go of the nostalgia of what it once was, because nothing is ever like it was when we were a child, sugar isn’t quite as energizing anymore, and the familial bosom isn’t as warm, so we mourn our memories, we live in a melancholic state that curdles into resentment, this is why nostalgia has to crumble to give way to evolution, it’s our pilgrimage to make.

 

 



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